Ida Burns Elementary is now equipped with a learning garden for its school after being named as a winner in a recent contest.

The school was one of three schools selected after applying for the fall 2017 Learning Garden Grant sponsored by Harps, Dole Packaged Foods and the Captain Planet Foundation and received the installation of a state-of-the-art learning garden.

Representatives from the companies, Superintendent Greg Murry, Mayor Bart Castleberry and more gathered to celebrate the new addition Tuesday.

Marty Ordman with Dole Packaged Foods said this is the second year they have partnered with the others for the contest.

“It’s all about educating kids about where their food comes from and healthy eating habits,” he said. “In this day and age with video games and smartphones … it’s just great to get the kids out of the class and [out in] real-life lessons of how things are growing.”

Ordman said the elementary age is crucial and the perfect time to teach kids about healthy eating habits.

“They more they work with the garden and see it develop with their own eyes, the more likely they are to eat food that come out of it,” he said. “If they plant it and watch it grow and harvest it they love eating it and tasting it.”

Ordman said the program is wonderful and has been truly embraced by the school.

Ida Burns’s Sharon Cone said everyone at the school has enjoyed and reaped the benefits of the garden, and that several of the teachers have even started gardening at home.

“What this means for our students is so much,” she said. “They’re learning self-sufficiency, they’re learning that they can be food secure their whole lives with this.”

In addition, Cone said, the students had the opportunity to help design the layout of the garden.

She said they gave students certain challenges that needed to be worked through and those proposals were voted on, with a third grader ultimately winning the design competition.

The farm-to-school initiative in Conway Public Schools began in November 2015 when the district received $44,000 through a USDA grant, which gave it the ability to develop and build gardens in all but three schools.

All 16 campuses were finally equipped to teach through the garden program May 17, 2017 with the final instillation at Woodrow Cummins Elementary.

Emily English, with Arkansas Farm-To-School and Arkansas Children’s Research Institute was also present for the ceremony and recognized the district’s effort to expose its students to where their food comes from.

“We know that when kids get their hands dirty and they’re a part of growing food, they’re much more likely to taste it, to try it and to go home and ask for it,” she said. “That is how we change kids and communities across the state of Arkansas.”