Garden School Foundation and Sprouts: Soil is Life!


Now more than ever, we’re thinking about the soothing and generative powers of the natural world, from Spring flowers to heaps of nutrient-rich compost. When Los Angeles United Schools closed in early March, Garden School Foundation’s (GSF) innovative Cafeteria to Compost program at 24th Street Elementary in Historic West Adams was in full swing, thanks to a generous partnership with the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. Every day at the 24th St. lunch tables this year, a paid team of school parents and interns helped gather unwanted food and redistribute it to other students where needed, and again with families at pick-up time as school let out. The remaining food scraps were then diverted to the school garden’s compost piles, nurturing the beds with homemade soil.

When GSF started the Cafeteria to Compost program, an average of 2,000 pounds of food waste was diverted to the compost each month. Since implementing the food share and recovery component with Sprouts’ support, the amount of waste diverted was reduced by half! In all, GSF composted 5,300 lbs. of food and redistributed 2,568 lbs. of food to 24th St. school families this year, increasing food access in a historically under-resourced neighborhood. At Sprouts, we share GSF’s belief that through the simple daily practice of cafeteria food share and composting, children can learn first-hand how to take concrete action to address both food access and climate change in their own community.

Since schools closed, GSF’s staff have pivoted to meet the demands of the moment, with each Garden Educator working closely with their school to provide rich online content to teachers and parents. They’re sharing recipes and garden lessons from the Seed to Table curriculum, newly created video tutorials, garden tours, and more! From how to make a sourdough starter to growing your own countertop sprouts, GSF is keeping students and the broader public engaged with programming.

The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation’s relationship with GSF began in 2017 with a $10,000 Neighborhood Grant for their core Seed to Table program. Now as the lead partner for GSF’s innovative Cafeteria to Compost program, Sprouts is helping to pilot an exciting, replicable model of school-based composting set to expand in L.A. next year, and hopefully, beyond!

Students hold baskets of produce in the school garden.

Signs remind students to tend to the compost.

Lunch scraps are sorted for the Cafeteria to Compost program.