$1M gift to UArizona School Garden Workshop launches 'Sprouts House' project

May 15, 2024
A photograph of a child measuring the garden soil behind a large green plant

A student works in a garden at Manzo Elementary School in Tucson.

Steve Escobar

The University of Arizona School Garden Workshop – which supports teaching and learning in K-12 school gardens in Tucson – will soon be able to expand its regional impact and national training capacity thanks to a $1 million gift from Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation.

The School Garden Workshop, housed in the School of Geography, Development and Environment in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, is offered in partnership with Tucson Unified School District. In addition to placing UArizona interns at 18 under-resourced schools, the program supports a network of more than 50 school gardens, providing teachers with professional development, curricular resources, consultations and community work days.

An illustration of a house surrounded by a garden, cars and people walking

Artist's rendering of the Sprouts House

"We're thrilled to help establish the Sprouts House in Tucson and to help the University of Arizona School Garden Workshop expand its capacity to support more schools and students access garden-based education," said Lyndsey Waugh, executive director of the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. "Sprouts is highly committed to supporting children's nutrition education programs in our communities and views this investment as one that will benefit thousands of kids across Tucson and our state for many years to come."

The Linchpin for the K-12 School Garden Pipeline

The $1,050,000 gift from Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation – the corporate foundation of Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. – is the lead gift supporting the creation of Sprouts House, which will cost $2 million.

The Sprouts House project includes the renovation of two UArizona-owned historical houses next to Mansfeld Magnet Middle School, 1300 E. Sixth St. One bungalow will be renovated into a community classroom and the other into a commercial kitchen. The yard will be turned into a teaching and production garden and include a greenhouse. The Sprouts House's proximity to the university makes it an ideal location for training interns who enroll in the School Garden Workshop course. Given its location, Sprouts House also will provide school garden program continuation for a host of westside elementary school gardens and the school garden at Tucson High Magnet School, which also is near the main campus.

A photograph of 20 people standing and smiling around a giant white and green check

The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation presented the university's School Garden Workshop with more than $1 million on May 15.

Chris Richards/University Communications

"Sprouts House will be the linchpin in the School Garden Workshop's K-12 school garden pipeline and the coalescence of 15 years of school garden experience, deep community need, and the perfect time and place," said Moses Thompson, director of the School Garden Workshop.

The vision is for Sprouts House to be a national model school garden and culinary education center, Thompson said. Each year, Sprouts House is projected to impact 150 educators, 150 university students and more than 6,000 K-12 students.

"We are deeply grateful to the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation for its investment in the School Garden Workshop, which is a program we are tremendously proud of," said Lori Poloni-Staudinger, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "The program's positive impact on University of Arizona students, K-12 students and our whole community will now expand due to the foundation's generosity and vision."

Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation has partnered with the School Garden Workshop for the past four years and helped launch the signature Sonoran Desert School Gardener's Almanac. Sprouts has invested more than $15 million in the school garden movement nationwide, supporting a network of more than 10,000 school gardens – including many in Arizona, where the company is headquartered.

"The School Garden Workshop is a wonderful example of community programming that embodies the university's land-grant mission,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "This gift from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation provides a wonderful opportunity to expand ongoing efforts to develop this area near campus as a learning and educational hub."

Becoming a National Garden Training Site

Each semester, the School Garden Workshop, which began in fall 2011, trains around 40 to 60 University of Arizona students from various majors to serve in TUSD schools. The interns spend six to eight hours each week in the schools supporting teachers who are using school gardens as extensions of their regular classrooms.

"The students respond to the immediate needs of the schools," said Thompson. "So, that's garden maintenance, that's planting and harvesting. They are trained to do curriculum development and use the garden as teaching spaces. They're taught to use the gardens therapeutically. They do food literacy and culinary activities. And they help coordinate and run community farmers markets with the produce grown."

Assessments of the program have found that school gardens create a welcoming environment, and K-12 students report that they enjoy school more when they spend time in the garden.

"Our program has gained a lot of national attention and there has been demand for us to go out and do work with other school garden nonprofits around the country," Thompson said. "Sprouts House will serve as a national training site during the school year."

"We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has contributed to the vision of the Sprouts House," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "Gifts like these have a tangible impact on K-12 students in our region and I know this partnership will benefit school children and educators for years to come."

The gift from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation is part of the Fuel Wonder campaign, the university's $3 billion fundraising effort. Gifts already made to the campaign are giving every student access to a cohesive ecosystem of support, powering new insights into the human immunome, and transforming research in areas including cancer, engineering, space sciences and the humanities.

Learn more about Fuel Wonder by visiting the campaign's website.