Building a Healthy Mississippi

School Garden Program

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is partnering with K-12 schools across the state to provide school gardens for healthy hands-on learning experiences. The Foundation’s school garden program uses the schoolyard as a classroom fully integrated into the fabric of participating schools and the academic experience of every student. In a school garden, students become farmers, scientists, mathematicians, historians, poets, chefs and horticulturists, making the full learning experience more relevant and engaging.

As of 2024, the Foundation has funded 82 school gardens in 39 Mississippi counties, including DeLisle Elementary School in Harrison County. With a greenhouse, raised garden beds, fruit trees, hydroponic and aquaponics gardens, the school presents farm to table cooking demonstrations to community members, including tasting opportunities with produce to take home, all at no cost.

“We are appreciative of the added value of a school garden and access to fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables, along with having the outdoor classroom as a resource,” said Connie Skrmetta, physical education teacher at DeLisle Elementary School. “Parents comment regularly about their child eating vegetables as a result of exposure to food in the garden, and new teachers say the garden was one of the reasons they chose to teach at our school.”

With a Foundation grant award, Bell Academy, located in the fertile soil of the Mississippi Delta, created outdoor and indoor edible gardens and built a greenhouse and outdoor classroom to encourage healthy eating and active living among students and teachers.

“Our students are eager to participate in garden activities and learn about growing and harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Tiffanie Russell, Bell Academy Principal. “The teachers’ newly gained knowledge in gardening and agriculture is also helping build positive relationships with students as they work side-by-side in the school garden.”

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has a successful history of supporting schools and recognizes health and well-being as an integral part of excellence in education and life-long success. Through school garden programs, the Foundation is ensuring students learn to value their own health and the importance of making healthy food choices.

Pictured at right: School Garden Programs at DeLisle Elementary School (three top images) and Bell Academy (two bottom images).