Andrews Christian Academy students plant, tend, harvest and eat produce from their own school garden.

One to two days each spring, students rotate through the garden to plant primarily root vegetables, tubers and gourds as part of their curriculum.

“In the spring, we get ready to plant the garden and we [teachers] talk to the kids about gardening and seeds and how things grow,” said Julie Olson, upper grades teacher and principal for Andrews Christian Academy.

Many students said they enjoyed the planting process last spring. Students said they had fun learning about gardening and God through the hands-on project.

“I love gardening because when you work with nature you see amazing things. … No one can make [the things I saw in the garden] except God,” said Aniya, an eighth grader.

During the summer, families of the students tend the garden and can take ripe produce.

In the fall, around the end of September, the remaining produce is ready to be harvested. All students take part in the harvesting process.

“In the fall digging potatoes, you would think we’re digging for gold, because the students get so excited when they see those potatoes being dug up,” Olson said.

The harvested produce is then used as part of a weekly free hot meal for students. Local church members bring homemade dishes and prepare the harvested produce as part of the meal.

“When we [the hot meal volunteers] would tell the children some of the food in their lunches was from the school garden, the students would get excited to know that the stuff they harvested was being used for hot lunches,” said Donna Enderson, hot meal volunteer and member of the Cedar Rapids Church.

Any extra food that is not used for lunches is given to families of the students.

“Between hot lunches and families, we use up pretty much everything that we grow,” Olson said.

For the 2021-2022 school year, the school had 34 students. Of these students, 23 were refugees. Most of the other students who attend Andrews Christian Academy are second-generation Americans.

Olson believes the school provides a better alternative to public school, where she said many students get involved in gangs. She said families in the area are “frantic” to get their children good educations in a family atmosphere. Many families, according to Olson, hear about the school through friends.

“I would say, probably a third of our students aren’t even Adventist, they come to us by word of mouth, from other families of attending students,” Olson said.

Many students at Andrews Christian Academy receive financial aid. Some of these funds come from the “Combined Youth Ministries” offering which is a line on tithe envelopes and on Adventist Giving.