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Southwest High School class learning hydroponic farming to fill lunchroom salad bar

Southwest High School adds six Flex Farm indoor hydroponic systems in Agriscience classroom from Basic Needs Giving Program grant. (WLUK)
Southwest High School adds six Flex Farm indoor hydroponic systems in Agriscience classroom from Basic Needs Giving Program grant. (WLUK)
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- One Green Bay high school is hoping to change the way students think of agriculture.

District leaders hope Southwest High School students discover new ways of growing fresh food as well as fight food insecurity.

“Brand new experience, I have never planted lettuce before, I was shocked to see how fast it grew," said Elsie Williams.

Williams and Maddie Marchant are Southwest seniors taking the agriscience class that cares for six Flex Farm indoor hydroponic growing systems, an aeroponic system and Nutrient Film Technique hydroponic system.

“We'll be harvesting every single week. What we get out of our harvest will go to the cafeteria and we’ll be feeding the school for lunches," said Marchant.

“We’re hoping to feed the whole school once it gets rolling," added Williams.

Tom Sebranek is the agriscience teacher and FFA advisor at Southwest. This is his first year incorporating growing systems into his curriculum.

“Shows kids that they can grow food no matter where they’re at in a healthier way than going to a grocery store all the time," said Sebranek.

Sebranek says since school started five weeks ago, 30 pounds of lettuce have been harvested. In total, the room holds more than 820 growing slots which can potentially each grow two ounces of greens. Sabranek says the goal is to harvest approximately 50 pounds a week.

Alex Tyink, Founder and CEO of Fork Farms says the mission is to connect students to fresh food.

“What we’ve seen over time and time again, when kids grow food, they are significantly more likely to want to eat that food and when they are learning about it they are able to talk about and integrate it more deeply at their food program at the school," said Tyink.

“Definitely thinking about growing your own lettuce at home because I am sure we’ll be able to taste more of the different lettuce," said Marchant.

Elsie and Maddie say after taking this class, they see at-home gardening in their future.

Tyink and Southwest High School say they hope that once students understand the growing systems, that knowledge will help fight food insecurity in the future.

Southwest High School says it will know the the cost of the growing program versus the cost savings for not buying the lunch produce once the systems are fully operational.

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A grant from the Basic Needs Giving Program made the Flex Farm hydroponic systems possible.

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