People's Gardens Aim to Provide Nutritious, Safe and Healthier Choices for Children and CommunitiesWASHINGTON, April 7, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that Washington State University will develop and run the People's Garden School Pilot Program which will serve an estimated 2,800 students attending 70 elementary schools in Washington, New York, Iowa and Arkansas. The Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth pilot is an innovative strategy to help our nation win the future through improved K-12 education. It explores the impact of school gardens on learning and on changing student consumption patterns so they make healthier food choices."School gardens hold great promise for educating our kids about food production and nutrition," said Vilsack. "Learning where food comes from and what fresh food tastes like, and the pride of growing and serving your own fruits and vegetables, are life-changing experiences. Engaging kids in our efforts to end childhood hunger and curb childhood obesity is critical if we are going to succeed." The $1 million pilot program is authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The schools selected to participate in this pilot come from urban, suburban, and rural communities and have at least 50 percent of their students qualified to receive free or reduced-price school meals The initiative is part of a the USDA People's Garden Initiative which establishes community and school gardens across the nation to help unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire simple solutions to challenges facing our country – from hunger to the environment. The announcement comes as First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative celebrates National Gardening Month (April). "Washington State University is a leader when it comes to gardening and garden-based learning, and this important pilot program will make a significant contribution to the development of national models," said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. "This program moves us toward our goal of improving the health and nutrition of our kids and communities, and instilling healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime." USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.