Focus Area:EducationSchool Food Initiative

About the School Gardens Program

In 2009, the Orfalea Fund established the School Gardens program as an integral component of the School Food Initiative. SFI awarded a grant to the Center for Sustainability at Santa Barbara City College to install or enhance elementary school gardens as well as engage teachers to maintain the gardens and teach garden lessons.  Today, the program is managed by Explore Ecology.

From the inception of the program until the end of the grant period in June, 2013 the School Gardens program installed or enhanced 35 gardens at the following sites:










Blochman Union School District

Benjamin Foxin Elementary School

Carpinteria Unified School District

Canalino Elementary School
Aliso Elementary School
Summerland Elementary School
Carpinteria Family School

Goleta Union School District

Brandon Elementary School
Ellwood School
Goleta Family School
Hollister School
Isla Vista School
Kellogg School
La Patera School
Mt. View School
Foothill School
El Camino School

Guadalupe Union School District

Mary Buren Elementary School

Lompoc Unified School District

La Honda Elementary School
Hapgood Elementary School
La Canada Elementary School
Los Berros Elementary School
Buena Vista Elementary School 
Fillmore Elementary School
Miguelito Elementary School

Orcutt Unified School District

Pinegrove Elementary School
Orcutt Academy
Olga Reed School

Santa Barbara Unified School District

Adams Elementary School
Adelante Charter School
Cleveland Elementary School
Franklin Elementary School
Harding University Partnership School
Monroe Elementary School
Open Alternative School

Los Olivos School District

Los Olivos School

Buellton Union School District

Oak Valley School

Some major lessons learned  from the program include how to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act while creating an inviting outdoor learning environment, how to cooperate with the County Environmental Health Department to allow school garden produce to be featured in school meals, how to work with maintenance workers’ unions that objected to adult volunteers helping maintain school gardens and the need for a paid, dedicated garden manager working  at least one day per week so that teachers could engage in garden activities without bearing responsibility for garden maintenance.

In January, 2014, Explore Ecology assumed responsibility for managing the School Gardens program. For more information on current garden sites, contact information for Garden Educators, volunteering to help in a school garden and other opportunities for supporting the School Gardens program, please visit the Explore Ecology website at

Chefs in the Garden

After conducting listening sessions with a variety of stakeholders to assess the impact of SFI’s Junior Chef program, the SFI team retired Junior Chef and developed the Chefs in the Garden program. In addition to having the capacity to incorporate many of the popular and effective components of Junior Chef, Chefs in the Garden took advantage of the expertise of in-house Chef Instructors, brought food literacy lessons to the school gardens sites, introduced the concept of seasonality and created a role for teachers before, during and after the lesson. 

Until the sunset of SFI in December 2015, the team of Chef Instructors will collaborate with Explore Ecology’s Garden Educators in aspiring to bring this program to each garden site twice per year.

To download the Chefs in the Garden curriculum, click HERE.