Burke students plant an edible legacy for their community

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Students at Burke Elementary planted 12 trees that will feed their community for years to come. Three European pear, three Asian pear and six apple trees will each bear 300-500 pounds of fruit over their lifetimes, which can span 30 years. The fruit will be served with school lunches and will be made available to neighbors who can come pick the pears and apples to eat at home.

In the entire Hickman Mills district, there are only two grocery stores. Fast food restaurants and convenience stores are as plentiful as in any food desert, where quality fresh food isn’t easy to come by, especially for families who don’t own vehicles.

The school will add more trees to the orchard in four or five years, so that as trees age, a new generation will be producing fruit. The orchard acts as a living science lesson, too, as students witness the orchard’s cycles season to season.

Hickman Mills has been a longtime partner of KC Healthy Kids, and we were proud to donate 6 of the trees, doubling what the students had originally intended to plant.

The Giving Grove brought the trees and all the supplies the students needed. But more than that, they brought lessons and inspiration. Rob Reiman, Giving Grove’s director, demonstrated the proper way to plant a tree. “Something a lot of people think they know but don’t,” he said, adding, “Now you are the ones who know.”

“I’ve been dreaming about this for the last three years, but I needed help,” said Swapnam Kumar, who championed the orchard and also oversees the schoolyard garden. “I needed big muscles,” she added. Finally at the end of March, the orchard came together thanks to a strong network that included KC Healthy Kids, Hickman Mills’ nutrition services department and Burke Elementary’s principal, Dr. Michael Camp, the Giving Grove, and Missouri Option (a diploma program for at risk students).

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