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USDA, Washington Capitals and Powell Elementary School Students Team Up To Design A "People's Garden"

Release No.
0060.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2011 – USDA People's Garden Director Livia Marqués, Washington Capitals Defensemen and 2011 NHL All-Star Mike Green, Comcast SportsNet analyst Alan May and Powell Elementary School Principal Janeece Docal launched a People's Garden Workshop today to design a garden at the school. Teachers, parents and every student in the school – 289 children from pre-Kindergarten to 4th grade – participated in the design process led by USDA employees.

As each group presented its concepts, the session captured the school community's best ideas for elements that were important to the success of the garden. USDA landscape architects, Matt Arnn and Bob Snieckus, will incorporate these concepts to develop the final design for the school garden. The design will be revealed to the school in early March. The school, USDA and the Caps then will get to work building the garden.

"The benefits provided by People's Gardens in this and hundreds of other communities goes far beyond the food that is produced," said Marqués. "The simple act of planting a garden can make real and lasting change in our communities, especially those in greatest need. The aim of the People's Garden initiative is to grow healthy food, people and communities throughout the country."

USDA is a key partner in First Lady Michelle Obama's LetsMove! Initiative and USDA's People's Garden initiative in part emphasizes the link between gardening and healthy lifestyles. A garden can be the first step to help students learn about healthy eating, exercise, environmental education and project-based learning, a main component of a school's curriculum. Learning at school happens beyond the classroom and through this project the whole school environment will be involved in the student's development.

"At Powell Elementary School we are very excited about The People's Garden initiative in partnership with USDA and the Washington Capitals," said Docal. "This will be a collaborative effort in which the parents, staff and students will unite to design the garden for our Powell campus and foster pride in beautifying and sustaining it. It will create teaching opportunities and authentic learning projects for all of our scholars, ages three to fourth grade—about the environment, biology, mathematics and related literature. It also will promote our health and wellness initiatives and enable social and cultural connections among our multicultural Powell community."

The Washington Capitals adopted Powell Elementary School as part of the team's community outreach efforts. Most recently, the Caps held a floor hockey clinic at the school to promote the sport along with exercise and healthy lifestyles. Mike Green, who is on a waiting list to get a plot in an Arlington community garden, was very excited to help the school create a garden. Gardening runs in Mike's blood as his uncle Murray is a gardener and manages greenhouses and Mike grew up on a farm in Canada.

"This is a unique opportunity for me to be able to participate in," said Green. "We have a responsibility to get the younger generation involved in making our community beautiful. I'm excited to hear what the students have in mind for the garden at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched the The People's Garden initiative in February 2009 on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, President Lincoln who started the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862, referred to it as "The People's Department." The initiative aims to engage all USDA employees to create gardens that benefit their communities and highlight sustainable practices that protect the environment. To meet this goal, employees are partnering with hundreds of organizations to create a 'People's Garden' at their USDA office or in their local communities.

Today, over 1,200 People's Gardens across the country are demonstrating how connections are made between providing access to nutritious food, while protecting the landscape where that food is grown, serving communities and helping those in need. These gardens provide educational opportunities for children and adults about nutrition and sustainability as well as introduce younger generations to agriculture and fresh foods.

More information about 'The People's Garden' initiative can be found at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden or follow the initiative for real-time updates at twitter.com/peoplesgarden. Information also is available on the USDA Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USDA and photos are available at www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov. Blogs from the gardeners involved in these "People's Gardens" are featured each Friday at www.usda.gov/blog/usda.