US: High School class learning hydroponic farming to fill lunchroom salad bar

Williams and Maddie Marchant are Southwest seniors taking the agriscience class that cares for six Flex Farm indoor hydroponic growing systems, an aeroponic system, and a Nutrient Film Technique hydroponic system. Tom Sebranek is the agriscience teacher and FFA advisor at Southwest. This is his first year incorporating growing systems into his curriculum.

The class “shows kids that they can grow food no matter where they’re at in a healthier way than going to a grocery store all the time," said Sebranek. And with success: “I am definitely thinking about growing my own lettuce at home because I am sure we’ll be able to taste more of the different lettuce," said Marchant. 

Sebranek says since school started five weeks ago, 30 pounds of lettuce have been harvested. In total, the room holds more than 820 growing slots which can potentially each grow two ounces of greens. The goal is to harvest approximately 50 pounds a week.

Alex Tyink, Founder and CEO of Fork Farms says the mission is to connect students to fresh food. “What we’ve seen time and time again when kids grow food, is that they are significantly more likely to want to eat that food and when they are learning about it they are able to talk about and integrate it more deeply at their food program at the school." 

Southwest High School says it will know the cost of the growing program versus the cost savings for not buying the lunch produce once the systems are fully operational. A grant from the Basic Needs Giving Program made the Flex Farm hydroponic systems possible.

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