PHARR - Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD's Ford Elementary was awarded a $10,000 check from H-E-B and Dole Food Company for winning the second ‘Let’s Get Growing Educational Program’ competition on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. The money will go toward incorporating additional playground equipment, including components specifically designed for students with special needs.

The efforts were part of a continuing partnership between H-E-B, Dole and PSJA ISD to pilot the ‘Let’s Get Growing’ educational program at six elementary schools within the district this spring.

Designed to make eating fruits and vegetables fun, the 12-week program taught 2nd graders the fundamentals of agriculture in modern day society and ways to improve eating habits. The program is led by school educators and supported by an H-E-B Registered Dietitian who provides cooking demonstrations in each classroom using easy-to-follow recipes.

As part of the program, teachers received bilingual nutrition and agriculture lessons to incorporate into the science curriculum, as well as, supplemental educational videos highlighting Texas growers, the process of growing fruits and vegetables and how produce makes the journey to H-E-B stores.

Each participating classroom and student also received an interactive activity booklet and a “Garden in a Box” that contained seeds to grow broccoli, spinach, and a dozen other fruits and vegetables at home with their families.

For three months, students were challenged to try 15 different fruits and vegetables, and track them on a special handout with the help of their parents. Completed handouts were collected by each participating school and tallied to determine an overall winner.

“At PSJA we believe in transforming the entire community,” said PSJA ISD Elementary Administrator Iris Alvarez. “This project helped do that. We truly thank our partners for their support and hope we can continue this in the future.”

Of the 700 students across six elementary schools, Ford Elementary had a 100 percent completion rate, with all participating students completing the fruit and vegetable challenge this semester. The five other participating schools included: Arnold Elementary, Dr. Long Elementary, Longoria Elementary, Escobar Elementary and Ramirez Elementary.

For students at Ford Elementary, taking part in the initiative and the competition was a fun learning experience.

“It was fun planting and learning about vegetables,” said second grade student Ashley Estrada. “My parents and teachers helped us grow the gardens at home too."

The Let’s Get Growing pilot program ended its first year by impacting more than 1,200 PSJA 2nd graders and their families in 12 PSJA ISD elementary schools.  The program looks forward to growing and influencing more students during its second year.