MARQUETTE - A group of people are banding together in the Superior Central School District to bring a hoop house to their students and their community.
The hope is to start small, growing some greens for school lunch, and branch out to include community education on growing and cooking healthy food and possibly becoming a local food supplier somewhere down the line.
Rachel DeRosie, an adjunct English professor at Northern Michigan University, and a resident inside the Superior Central Schools District, is one of many working on the project.
Kelly Cantway, special projects coordinator for the Marquette Food Co-op, waters vegetable and composted manure inside the Northern Michigan University hoop house. The Superior Central School District is looking to construct a hoop house of its own, working with community members on securing grants and donations to begin the project in early fall. Once the hoop house is up and running, the food co-op will work with the district to help the hoop house become part of a local food hub. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
DeRosie said its the committee's hope that the hoop house would benefit not only the students of Superior Central Schools, but also the people in the surrounding community.
Hoop houses, she said, can offer educational opportunities in a number of ways - not the least of which is how to eat healthy food - and can also serve as local food sources, once operations really get underway.
"Hoop houses provide an educational environment for not only the students, but also the general public to learn about food and food issues," DeRosie said. "Those same hoop houses could potentially grow food that could be aggregated and distributed throughout the region as well."
The hoop house could also be used to educate adults on how to grow and cook their own food.
As the local food movement continues to grow in popularity across the country, DeRosie said eating local is often seen as eating elitist, since local food is often stereotyped as more expensive than food from a big box store.
"I really believe that there's a movement going on out there, but I'm not sure it's reaching the people it needs to," she said. "The people it needs to reach are the middle and lower classes who are consuming a lot of the stuff that's particularly bad. I think it's most important to educate people, this food is not elitist.
Cooking good food and growing good food can be easier and cheaper than the alternative."
DeRosie said she sees the hoop house as an excellent way to help combat the epidemic of obesity that continues to grab national headlines, an epidemic that's all too often started at an early age.
When unhealthy eating habits are learned young, it's much more difficult to break them as an adult.
"We have an epidemic in this country with health related issues, mostly revolving around food and connected to food," DeRosie said. "What better place to start (educating) than in the schools and teaching kids good eating habits and teaching them things they can bring home?"
Though the hoop house will provide a wealth of opportunity for hands-on education, especially in the sciences, the group is hoping to offer a hoop house curriculum to the district that spans across all subjects, from English to biology.
The Marquette Food Co-op is also jumping in to help get the project underway at Superior Central.
Natasha Lance, outreach coordinator for the co-op, said she sees the hoop house as yet another component of organizing a local food hub.
"The concept of the food hub is something that is gaining momentum not only at the national level but at the state level as well," Koss said, adding that she has attended several meetings in Lansing on food hub organization. "Their hoop house would be only one small component in a much larger view that they're taking, as far as integrating agriculture into their curriculum, working at ways to have hands on experiences."
Though organizers are eager to get the project underway, they are unwilling to ask the school district for any financial aid. DeRosie said the schools have enough on their plates without adding the cost of running a hoop house to the bottom line.
The group is hoping to start the project and continue to run it through donations and grants. They are working to secure their first grant now, with a submission date set at June 15.
DeRosie said the group hopes to begin growing greens for the hoop house in the fall so students can start enjoying the fruits of their labor during lunchtime next year.
Anyone interested in donating to the project should contact school board member and hoop house organizer Ben Bartlett at email@example.com
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.