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Classroom Garden Program Grows in Northeast Ohio Thanks to Nordson Corporation Foundation

Thanks to generous donations from sponsors like Nordson, Veggie U, a national non-profit dedicated to increasing children’s awareness of the connection between food growth and healthy eating habits, has been bringing its mission—and plenty of fresh veggies—to life since the program began in 2003.

The Nordson Corporation Foundation has been instrumental in helping Veggie U reach students by donating more than $68,000 over five years for classroom gardens in Lorain County, Ohio, schools that otherwise could not afford to provide this program— 1,550 students from Elyria, Amherst, Avon, Lorain and Murray Ridge school districts in Ohio have been able to participate in Veggie U at no cost because of Nordson.

A group of educators and nutritionists planted the idea for Veggie U near Nordson’s Amherst and Westlake, Ohio, offices in neighboring Oberlin, Ohio, in response to spiking childhood obesity rates and the decline of nutrition education—a topic that many elementary schools only spend an average of 3.4 hours per year covering because teachers must focus on core subjects examined by standardized tests.

“There is mounting evidence that students who participate in school gardening score significantly higher on standardized science achievement tests,” said Nadia Clifford, the Executive Director of Veggie U. “But given the ever-growing demands on teachers’ time and the poor financial health of many school districts, gardens often present real challenges to schools.”

Veggie U turns the expense of outdoor gardens into an affordable classroom experience by giving students the chance plant seeds, watch them grow and learn how to incorporate the fresh foods into their diets, integrating lasting life skills into the science, math and language arts lessons taught in the program’s five-week curriculum. In its $450 Classroom Gardens, Veggie U provides the seeds, soil, root view boxes, grow lights, worm farms and lesson guides to schools at no cost through the help of its sponsors.

“As the years go by, incoming classes know they will participate in Veggie U and look forward to it,” Nadia said, noting that the program inspires many students to try new foods when they are at home. “The hands-on experience empowers children to positively affect their own health and wellness.”

Since the program sprouted in 15 classrooms during the 2004-2005 school year, Veggie U’s programming has expanded its roots from its Ohio headquarters to more than 7,500 classrooms in 36 states, and in 2014, Veggie U A+ launched, providing students with autism and other learning disabilities the chance to participate in the program. To date, Veggie U has reached more than 187,000 students and their families.

“The Nordson Corporation Foundation has played a pivotal role in Veggie U’s efforts to both sustain and expand its program,” Nadia said. “We are deeply grateful for Nordson’s help in achieving our goal of healthier children.”

Veggie U relies on the help of volunteers who package and assemble seeds, develop curriculum and communicate with classrooms, as well as sponsors who help fund Classroom Gardens across the country. You can learn more about Veggie U and help grow the program’s mission by visiting