In The Spotlight: NBFA School Garden Fosters Passion for Healthy and Nutritious Food



New Beginnings Family Academy (NBFA) celebrated another successful reopening of the NBFA School Garden, funded by the Whole Kids Foundation for the second year in a row. The NBFA School Garden inspires students to learn not only about the joys of gardening but also to develop healthy eating habits that they can share with their families. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables, along with pollinator plants, overtook eight large wooden garden beds in NBFA’s urban school garden in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 


“NBFA was pleased to partner with the Whole Kids Foundation for the second year in a row,” said NBFA Director and CEO Ronelle Swagerty. “The Foundation was incredibly supportive of our proposal which expanded this year to include not only the NBFA School Garden but also literacy initiatives in the classroom and nutrition initiatives for our students to share with their families.” 


This spring/summer, Pre-K and 3rd graders experienced hands-on science activities in an outdoor classroom environment while fostering a passion for gardening and growing fresh and nutritious food, led by Garden Coordinator (and NBFA Upper School Assistant Principal) Katherine Habansky 


Katherine Habansky with a student in the garden

NBFA Upper School Assistant Principal and Garden Coordinator Katherine Habansky assists a student in planting flowers in the NBFA School Garden. Marigolds were planted to keep pests away.  


In early May, work was done on the garden to prepare it for planting. Organic soil was put down in the raised garden beds, and new stones were placed in the pathways to make them easier to navigate. 


Once the garden was ready, students collaborated in fun, educational gardening activities. Students learned such gardening skills as weeding, planting vegetable seeds, and planting marigolds to help keep away moles and other animals while attracting beneficial insects. Students also explored how non-living things in the garden ecosystem support the growth of the vegetables and strawberries we planted. 


“Despite being uncertain at first, our students quickly took ownership over the planting and care of the garden beds,” Habansky shared. “It was amazing seeing students learning collaboratively outside the classroom.” 


Students planting seeds

Two NBFA Pre-K Students plant basil seeds into biodegradable pots. They will take the basil plants home with them and incorporate them into their favorite family meals. 


After learning gardening skills, Pre-K and 3rd graders participated in a basil seed potting project. The students planted basil seeds into biodegradable pots and watered them. Over the summer, they will tend to the basil plants and enjoy incorporating them into their family meals. By caring for these plants and adding them to their favorite dishes, students can better understand the importance of proper nutrition.  


Age-appropriate gardening and healthy eating books and journals that gave students the opportunity to record their observations were also funded for classroom and home use.  


“While all school gardens are special, they are essential in city schools where most students do not have access to green spaces. We are proud to partner with Whole Kids Foundation in promoting healthy eating and nutrition,” Swagerty said. “We are so pleased to see once again how excited students are in growing their food.” 


Bee on a flower

A bee pollinates a flower in the NBFA School Garden. To help encourage sustainable alternatives to pesticides, organic soil is used in the garden beds.


NBFA’s Emotionally Responsive Practice model attends to the whole child. Part of that is ensuring students have the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices. 


For more information about the mission and programming at NBFA, visit 


For more information regarding NBFA’s commitment to promoting nutrition and the NBFA Recipe of the Month series in partnership with Whole Foods Market, click here 


About Whole Kids Foundation: Whole Kids Foundation, a Whole Foods Market foundation, is based in Austin, Texas, and operates as an independent, nonprofit organization. By empowering schools and inspiring families, the Foundation aims to help children reach optimal health through the strength of a healthy body fueled by nutritious food.  For information about the Whole Kids Foundation programs, visit