PORTSMOUTH– Portsmouth City School showcased its hydroponic farming program at the 2023 Hunger Summit, sponsored by the Community Action Organization of Scioto County on March 23, at the Welcome Center in Portsmouth.
Hydroponics refers to the technique of growing plants without soil, using nutrient solutions based on water instead of soil. Hydroponic production systems are used by small farmers, hobbyists, and commercial enterprises. The Grow Up Portsmouth program was introduced at Portsmouth City Schools this school year, using hydroponic grow towers to teach students the science of agriculture. It also helps combat the food insecurity problem in our community by sharing its crop with local food pantries.
“We are 97.4 percent economically disadvantaged at Portsmouth City Schools, and half of our student body, when they go home, don’t have a car to go get food. All of this just provides better access to fresh produce. We want to be involved as a school because if kids are hungry, they’re not going to do well in school,” said Portsmouth High School Social Studies Teacher Wesley Hartman.
There are currently 20 towers placed in classrooms at Portsmouth High School and Portsmouth Elementary School.
“We learned about this program at a conference where we heard a presentation from a school that started a hydroponics and aeroponic project in what was, at the time, the poorest congressional district in the United States. They saw a 53 percent improvement in attendance and a 45 percent increase in test scores through this program. We decided that since a lot of our student population was similar to that district, it would be a good idea to bring those programs here,” Hartman said.
There are no local statistics yet about how the program might improve attendance at Portsmouth City Schools, but Hartman said he has already seen the kids being more excited to come to school so they can work on their crops.
The annual Hunger Summit began in 2018 to unite organizations that are working toward solving the problem of hunger in the community. After a pause during the COVID years, the Summit returned this year to host local community programs like Watch Me Grow, the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio State University Extension Office, the Area Agency on Aging, Potter’s House Food Pantry, and Freestore Foodbank.
“We know that many people in our community continue to struggle with being able to afford nutritious foods. It impacts their health and wellness, and we are all hoping to make a difference,” said Luanne Valentine, CAO Workforce Community Development director.
The program was met with overwhelmingly positive feedback from others attending the Hunger Summit.
The presentation by Portsmouth City Schools was met with overwhelmingly positive feedback from those in attendance of the Summit. Hartman said the district would like to increase the number of grow towers in their classrooms, create a garden from an old shipping container, and would eventually like to establish a building in the city where the school can produce enough vegetables to serve more feeding programs.
For more information about Portsmouth City Schools, visit them online at www.portsmouthtrojans.net, or follow the school’s page on Facebook.