MARCH 12, 2009 – Local leaders have quietly been examining the use of school gardens to help nuture the minds and bodies of Chicago children.

The new initiative, spearheaded by Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Office, aims to place working gardens in all city public schools by 2018.

Over half of all public schools in the city – more than 300 total – already have gardens, according to Suzanne Carlson, the environmental program manager for Chicago Public Schools. The 10-year working plan, outlined by the Growing School Gardens Collaborative, would expand that number to almost 500 outdoor learning landscapes, she said.

“Keeping (the gardens) and adding them is the challenge,” Carlson said. “If the passionate person leaves, they’re not always maintained.”

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