(05/13/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — After schools in West Feliciana Parish closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools had to decide what to do with their gardens.
LSU AgCenter area nutrition agent Layne Langley, who teaches nutrition and gardening at Bains Lower Elementary School, and Lanya Mayer, the school’s Play 60 physical education coach, saw an opportunity.
“Due to the unforeseen school closures, harvesting the produce became a concern,” Langley said.“Since we didn’t want the produce to go to waste, Lanya suggested donating the harvest to the West Feliciana Food Pantry.”
Students had been growing an “ABC garden” this year, where they planted items that can be used in an alphabet vegetable soup.
Langley and Mayer guided kindergartners and first graders in planting radishes, turnips, English peas and green onions. In October, the students planted carrots. Langley also taught the students about the five food groups of the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate.
“On Monday, May 4, Lanya and her college-age son, Ashton Verdicanno, harvested the carrots at Bains Lower Elementary,” Langley said. “After leaving the school, she made a stop at the local grocery store, where she ran into a few of her students and parents of her students and shared some of the carrots with them.”
Mayer contacted Bettye Martin at the West Feliciana Food Pantry to offer the rest of the carrot harvest.
“Since Wednesdays are ‘produce days’ at the pantry, the date was set,” Langley said. “Wednesday, May 6, was a bittersweet day for both of us.”
Although they were unable to watch the 350 children harvest their carrots and see their reactions, Langley and Mayer both knew that sharing the harvest with the citizens of West Feliciana Parish would be greatly appreciated.
They were touched to hear how excited the pantry volunteers were to get the carrots.
“The West Feliciana Food Pantry serves 375 client families, seeing each family once every two months,” Langley said.
Each family receives a box of non-perishables and a box of miscellaneous items like juice, fresh produce, canned meat, nuts, lentils, rice, crackers, powered milk, eggs and bread.
The pantry is open the first and third Thursday of each month for distribution.
“The food pantry could not serve who it does without the help of volunteers,” Langley said. “They like giving to the community and working with each other.”
For more information about the nutrition and school garden programs at Bains Lower Elementary, contact Langley at 225-635-3614 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 300 carrots were harvested from the school gardens at Bains Lower Elementary school in West Feliciana Parish. Photo by Lanya Mayer
Bettye Martin with the West Feliciana Food Pantry, left, accepts carrots from LSU AgCenter area nutrition agent, Layne Langley, center, and Play 60 coach Lanya Mayer, right. Photo by West Feliciana Food Pantry
First grade students at Bains Lower Elementary school in West Feliciana Parish plant carrot seeds in the school garden in October 2019. Photo by Layne Langley/LSU AgCenter
Macie Cannon, a first grader at Bains Lower Elementary school in West Feliciana Parish, tries a fresh carrot she helped grow in the school garden. Photo by Lanya Mayer