Bridgeton, NJ // June 13, 2018 – Bridgeton High School students and officials, the Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly, Philadelphia’s Procacci Brothers, Revive South Jersey, and New Jersey Community Capital celebrated the opening of a 1,500 square foot greenhouse and student-built hydroponic farm that will support student education and nutrition for the 1,400 students at the school.
Twenty students from the high school’s nutrition class spent the last 2 weeks building the hydroponic farm. This fall, students will plant fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Students in Bridgeton High School’s science and nutrition classes, starting this fall, will use the greenhouse and hydroponic farm as a learning lab where they will learn STEM skills, get hands-on farming experience and learn about nutrition. Furthermore, all 1,400 students at the school will participate in healthy cooking demonstrations using the farm produce and have access to the fruits, vegetables and herbs grown on the farm in their cafeteria.
“The Bridgeton Public Schools raising nutritious, home grown produce at the high school is exciting and rewarding on many levels,” said Albert B. Kelly, CCAP, President & CEO of Gateway and Mayor of the City of Bridgeton. “Our Mill Creek Urban Farm in Bridgeton, combined with the efforts of the Bridgeton Public Schools will help make healthy opportunities a reality for our youth, who are our leaders of tomorrow. Growing produce and growing leaders is indeed exciting and rewarding,” Kelly added.
“We are very excited to enter into this partnership with Procacci Brothers, Revive South Jersey and New Jersey Community Capital. I have been the Director of Food Services for two years now and I see this as our greatest opportunity to “Bridge the Gap” between education and food services. We feel like the cafeteria is the largest classroom in the school; the greenhouse and the produce from the hydroponic system supports the district’s curriculum in the classroom and the cafeteria. Teaching our students how to grow healthy fruits and vegetables is a direct solution to our communities’ issue of food insecurity, ”said Warren DeShields, Director of Food Services, Bridgeton Public Schools.
The greenhouse was donated and constructed by Procacci Brothers, who also provided the school with 600 of its famous tomato plants. Revive South Jersey and NJCC, through THRIVE South Jersey, provided $12,000 grant funding to support the hydroponic farm and additional gardens at the Bridgeton Elementary School.
NJCC, a 30-year-old nonprofit that invests in people and places to create thriving communities that lead to a fairer economy, invested in this project as part of the organization’s efforts to create economic opportunities and stability in four South Jersey counties that include Cumberland County. “We are committed to neighborhood projects that create educational and economic opportunities for residents and strengthen families and neighborhoods. We’re proud to be a partner in this project that will both improve education and nutrition for students,” said Wayne Meyer, President, New Jersey Community Capital.
“We are so thankful for this opportunity to partner with Bridgeton High School to provide their students with a real life science experiment that teaches valuable skills and helps them to gain an understanding of where their food comes from. We hope our that donation instills in Bridgeton’s students a greater appreciation for agriculture and that increasing their exposure to fruits and vegetables encourages healthy eating and lifestyle habits.” – Joseph M. Procacci – CEO of Procacci Brothers and Ag-Mart Produce Inc.
It has been a pleasure and joy to see all the involved organizations come together to make a difference for the youth, schools and their neighborhoods through the efforts to start the community garden program in the schools. Without everyone working together and bringing their strengths and generosity, this would not be possible. Not only is the greenhouse and overall community garden program a great asset to the children and schools, but for them to see the giving and generosity on behalf of so many organizations and individuals, it provides a perfect example of what community means and how we can all give back,” said Jonathan Cummings, Revive South Jersey.
In early 2017, The Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population and Health Institute published at nationwide health ranking report that ranked Cumberland County, New Jersey last in overall health outcomes, overall health behaviors, and adult obesity. The idea for the farm as a way to address these challenges was conceived by Revive South Jersey, the Bridgeton Public Schools, the City of Bridgeton and other community stakeholders. The goal is to increase access to healthy food and promote community unification, education, and healthy diets.
“I am elated that we have the opportunity to afford our students a chance to participate in an agricultural experience of growing their own produce. We have been expending a lot of time and energy engaging our students to participate in healthy eating. Now our students will have the opportunity to engage in activities to help them see the benefits of growing, producing and enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Thomasina Jones, Superintendent, Bridgeton Public Schools.
“The mission of the Bridgeton Public School District is to provide multiple pathways for all students… and all students will be provided with the opportunity and resources to succeed through the creation of state-of-the-art, safe learning environments,” said Edward Bethea, Board President of the Bridgeton Public Schools. “The new greenhouse, or outdoor classroom, will afford our students with agricultural exposure that would be limited in an indoor setting. The Board of Education applauds and supports all efforts that ultimately enable all our students to graduate from high school and become productive members of a global community,” Bethea continued.
About New Jersey Community Capital
New Jersey Community Capital is a nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides innovative financing and technical assistance to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and sustainable community development ventures that increase jobs, improve education, and strengthen neighborhoods. Founded in 1987, NJCC has invested over $630 million in New Jersey communities, resulting in over 8,800 housing units, 7,300 early care slots, 16,500 education seats, and 9,600 jobs. For more information, visit: www.newjerseycommunitycapital.org.
About Revive South Jersey
RSJ’s mission is to work together with community non-profit and faith based organizations and local stakeholders and businesses to transform the lives of individuals and families in Bridgeton by supporting their physical and personal needs to strengthen the family unit. In 2014, RSJ was awarded a grant from Pascale Sykes Foundation to lead the Unidos para la Familia collaborative servicing Hispanic families in Bridgeton, NJ.