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North Hills students plant seeds to feed community

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 10:18 a.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
North HIlls Senior High School sophomores (from left) Allison Hoffmay, Abby Wainwright and Sarrah Mailliard plant tomato and basil seeds during 'Nutrition, Food and Fitness' class on Monday, March 11, 2013.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
North Hills Senior High School junior Christian Fuchs plants tomato seeds during 'Nutrition, Food and Fitness' class on Monday, March 11, 2013.
Teacher Kelly Krecek looks on as North Hills Senior High School junior Jordan Roberts fills a composter with lettuce during 'Nutrition, Food and Fitness' class on Monday, March 11, 2013.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
North Hills Senior High School students taking a 'Nutrition, Food and Fitness' class Monday, March 11, 2013, planted seeds, such as these lettuce seeds, to grow plants that will be transplanted into a garden that provides produce for clients of North Hills Community Outreach food pantries.

North Hills Senior High School students planted seeds as part of their Nutrition, Food and Fitness class, but what they'll harvest this summer will be a sense of community.

Teachers Amy Patsilevas and Kelly Krecek and AmeriCorps volunteer Mel Cronin supervised the teens as they set the vegetables, flowers and herbs seeds into potting soil at the school. In May, they'll take the seedlings to the Rosalinda Saura Sirianna Garden in Bellevue, land donated by Teresa Amelio of McCandless and owned by North Hills Community Outreach.

The produce and flowers will benefit those who depend on the organization's food bank.

Young people are a big part of the outreach's volunteer base, “and the garden is a super place for them to spend their energy,” said Fay Morgan, 60, of Shaler, the organization's executive director.

“By being involved from the planting to the harvest and all the stages in between, they really appreciate what is involved in growing nutritious food that struggling families need.”

The North Hills students will grow some of their own plants and prepare meals and snacks from the produce, including stuffed pepper soup, salsa and herbed butters.

Ninth-grader Emily Cooney, 15, of Ross planted herbs. Oregano, cilantro, basil, pea and Chinese and hot Portugal pepper seeds shared a flat.

Colleen Pearson, 15, a sophomore, said she has had experience “planting tomatoes, beans and random stuff” in her family garden in Ross.

The pots will sit in the school district's greenhouse, where students will check on them in between periods, add water and wait for the sprouts to appear.

“I'm learning with the students,” Patsilevas said. “This is our third planting, and we get better every time.”

As the students learn about food and nutrition, Krecek will instruct those who aren't athletes on lifetime fitness.

“It's not your typical gym class,” she said.

Rose Wise, manager of the North Hills Community Outreach garden, said she has seen the joy volunteers take from their efforts.

“Gardening provides many opportunities to learn — the obvious being botany and biology — but also math, genetics, ecology, soil science, environmental science, history, geography, agriculture and then the culinary arts,” Wise said.

“It's very rewarding to say at dinner time, ‘I grew everything on my plate.' ”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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