Schools get grant for portable farms

Youngstown food service adds 2 hydroponic lettuce units

Submitted photo Fork Farms Flex Farm at the Youngstown City School District uses an indoor vertical hydroponic technology to grow lettuce and serve city schools.

Staff report

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown City School District Food Service Department was awarded a $10,000 grant from the William Swanston Charitable Fund to purchase two Fork Farms Flex Farms to produce lettuce.

The Flex Farm system is an indoor, vertical hydroponic technology that grows more than 394 pounds of produce annually. The $4,000 units take up less than 10 square feet of space and are portable.

“The district sincerely thanks the William Swanston Charitable Fund and the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley for their generosity,” said food service Director Tascin Brooks. “We are so excited to implement the vertical lettuce-growing hydroponic farms in three elementary schools and have our scholars be involved in the growing process every step.”

William Swanston Charitable Fund is a supporting organization of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley.

Brooks noted that the food service department partnered with the city schools Y- STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program to have students be active participants from seed to harvest. Y-STEAM is a district initiative for all grade levels that provides engaging problem-based learning experiences and a curriculum that inspires innovation, inquiry, critical thinking and collaboration.

The food service department, Brooks said, serves more than 300 pounds of lettuce weekly. It previously bought one Flex Farm, and now, with the grant to purchase the additional units, the department could supplement the lettuce used in the kitchens with those harvested from the farms. Currently, the farm yields 25 pounds of lettuce every four weeks.

Fork Farms is a Wisconsin-based company. It says the company is led to inspiring and empowering their partners to grow fresh food, nourish their communities and heal the planet.



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