It is shameful that a nation as rich and bountiful as the United States should have a hunger problem. No one, especially children, should go to bed hungry; no one should have to beg for food.

Besides our people, the greatest resource we have is land. The Salem-Keizer School District should begin a program that turns parts of our school property into community food gardens.

At schools, such as Kennedy Elementary and others where too many children depend on free or reduced lunches, it would be better to teach kids where food comes from by growing it themselves. Vegetables grown in gardens at each school would provide nutritious food that is vital to a child’s well being. A community garden would also benefit families in need that live near those schools.

The science of growing food is thousands of years old. Man has cultivated what he eats across the globe and across the millenia. It is not rocket science, it is as basic as it gets.

Some might say that we can’t force our school children to grow their own lunches. That would be correct. We can provide the tools and supplies for kids and families in need to grow fresh vegetables that are important to their diet.

Such a garden program should be developed with as little bureaucracy as possible. It doesn’t need an environmental impact statement. It doesn’t need  legislative or federal oversight. It just needs to get started.

Starting with each school’s business partners, donations can be sought for the implements: timbers to create raised garden beds, good soil, seeds, trowels, hoes and water hoses.

No child would be required to be involved, yet what parent would keep their child from learning about food and agriculture and have fun doing it. The program could be an exciting and rewarding if presented with enthusiasm and a can-do spirit by the school district and community groups such as the Rotary Club of Keizer.

Kids generally don’t like vegetables, especially if they are not served at home regularly, but what kid who grows their own carrot or tomato wouldn’t savor every bite?

Programs such as this too often get bogged down in the details and the legalities and turf wars. Plotting out a garden-size area that gets sun and is close to a water source would be the first step. That should be very easy to do with the guidance of the school principal and the district’s facilities office.

Next would be soliciting donations for the supplies needed to build a raised bed, then the tools and the seeds.

The systems we have in place raise too many obstacles to a simple project such as this. It could be completed if we have the vision and the will to do it.

It is important and timely to add good food to the menu that is offered. As the adage goes, give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. If we cultivate good eating habits in our children now there will be fewer health problems in their future.

  —LAZ