The senator was joined by representatives from United Health Foundation, United Healthcare and Whole Kids Foundation to announce the grants totaling $81,000. The three organizations have worked together to launch the Tennessee grant program aimed at improving children’s nutrition.

In a ceremony taking place just a few steps away from where the school’s garden will be built this fall, about 40 Nexus elementary students got an impromptu visit by likely one of the garden’s biggest supporters – a busy pollinator buzzing as the children laughed and squealed while trying to get out of the bee’s path. Excitedly, one of the children announced the bee was already looking for his home in the garden.

The grant announcement was followed by a thought leadership round table featuring the senator and community leaders discussing health challenges facing Tennessee youth, such as food insecurity, obesity and other social determinants of health, and possible local solutions to address these challenges.

During the round table discussion, community leaders noted school gardens were a solid step in supporting children’s nutrition. Studies show school gardening, combined with a healthy lunch program or nutrition education, encourages healthier food choices, and children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they have grown themselves.

Last month, Whole Kids Foundation announced 602 new school and school-garden-support-organization grant recipients. The recipients cover 46 U.S. states and nine Canadian provinces, providing educational opportunities around agriculture, ecology, nutrition and business for 356,798 students.

Gardens are becoming an increasingly common educational tool and for good reason: school gardens are shown to improve children’s behavior and performance at school and improve their attitudes about and appreciation for the environment.

Over the past seven years, Whole Kids Foundation has awarded funding for 4,826 gardens, investing $9.65 million and benefiting 2.9 million students.