Meet Harry Brandt. In addition to being a committed second grade teacher, Harry is an avid gardener and he's passing on his passion to the students at Patrick E. Bowe School in Chicopee.
Harry will tell you, it's not easy to find fresh produce in the community where he works. The families whose children attend P.E. Bowe school do not have easy access to a major supermarket—the nearest one is two miles away in Springfield. This means that fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods are not as readily available as the highly processed foods found in the convenience stores closer to school.
That’s why Harry took it upon himself to create a school garden that now holds twenty-six beds! As Harry says, “When you live in a low-income food desert, the school must become an oasis that provides nutritional relief to families.” The garden gives kids opportunities throughout the year for a seed-to-fork experience. They plant their own seeds in the spring, harvest the produce in the fall, and then chow down on their hard work at lunch. Harry’s even at work in the summer, coming in every few days to water and weed, making sure everything is in good shape for the new school year. How’s that for going above and beyond?!?
Harry has also played a key role in establishing a gardening club at P.E. Bowe. The club helps kids learn even more about growing their own food, and allows them to bring fresh vegetables home to their families. It’s a popular extra-curricular, claiming fifty-five student-gardeners in the Spring of 2019! Harry’s colleagues tell us that’s partly because he couldn’t bring himself to turn anyone away. Now that’s a Teacher Champion!
Not only does Harry’s amazing work in Chicopee feed hungry students and their families, an increasing amount of research points to experiential learning as an effective means to engage students and build critical skills and knowledge. The schoolyard garden is a wonderful learning tool that also gives kids the opportunity to try new foods and promote healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.
As one of Project Bread’s 2019 Teacher Champions, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts are happy to celebrate Harry and the eleven other winners.
Learn more about our 2019/20 Initiative to address hunger in the classroom with our partners and the other Teacher Champions fighting hunger in their schools.