Blue Watermelon Project Brings Gardening and Culinary Lessons to Schools Across Phoenix


The Blue Watermelon Project is a small but mighty group of chefs, farmers, and activists in Phoenix, Ariz. who focus on nutrition and education by bringing gardens into schools and supporting underserved high school culinary students. Led by James Beard Award-winning chef, Chef Charleen Badman, Blue Watermelon Project works with students, parents and school food service to bring healthy and nutritious food to youth in Arizona. Believing all people deserve access to nutritious, tasty food, this grassroots organization works to change the food system, starting from the ground up.

Currently, the Blue Watermelon Project works with 10 Phoenix and Scottsdale school gardens through their Chef in the Garden program. Chefs visit schools directly to grow, prepare and taste freshly harvested fruits and herbs with students in the school gardens. These children learn concepts related to soil, composting, and beneficial plants and bugs, all while growing healthy fruits and vegetables on school grounds. With the help of Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, the Blue Watermelon Project will purchase additional produce to supplement that which is grown in the school garden, so a greater number of students can participate in cooking demonstrations and taste testing.

By receiving a Neighborhood Grant from Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, the Blue Watermelon Project will also enhance their annual Feeding the Future event. This event challenges high school juniors and seniors to create a healthy school lunch option, within the budget of $1.25 per serving, which is then tasted and voted on by event attendees. Recipes are judged on appearance, taste and creativity, and they must fit within the nutrition and budgetary guidelines of the National School Lunch Program. Young chefs navigate the challenges of creating healthy and affordable school meals while gaining valuable skills for a career in the culinary industry. With Sprouts’ $10,000 Neighborhood Grant, the Blue Watermelon Project aims to double its participation and fundraising goals for this event.

The Blue Watermelon Project’s unique position allows it to connect school gardens with school food service, teaching kids important lessons on growing their own food and learning how great it can taste! Through their culture of giving and sharing, Blue Watermelon Project educates youth on how to be good to each other and good to the planet.

Chef Charleen Badman prepares a dish using produce harvested in the school garden.

A Sprouts team member volunteering with students out in the school garden.