Fort Walton Beach cultivates sustainable students with a plant-based club

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FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — A growing club in Okaloosa County dreams of making students more sustainable.

Sandra Barrette is a Spanish teacher and sponsor of the Plant-Based Club in Fort Walton Beach High School. Although “plant-based” is in the name, it’s not so much about a diet as it is about growing and making organic food.

Every Wednesday, a wide variety of about 25 students meet after school to tend to the garden and tend to the produce.

“The club started because I’m very interested in health and nutrition and I feel like kids don’t know enough about you know where their food comes from and they keep it as basic as possible. So what does organic mean and why is it important?”

Sandra Barrette, club sponsor

The garden produced cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, strawberries and more.

Plant-focused club members learn more than just planting and growing. Barrette teaches children from start to finish how to wash and prepare produce for an everyday meal.

“So the mission is for everyone to enjoy using the food we grow and show how to actually apply it,” Barrette said. “We have tomatoes and we also do cucumbers, and so I’m like you know what? Let’s make a salad.

Students who join the club also earn community service hours. Students also learn about different diets and dietary needs around a plant-based lifestyle.

“I’m vegan and so around the school we actually had big signs that said What is pescatarian? What is it to be vegan? What is vegetarian, what is plant-based? says Barrette. “Because they always think, oh, you can’t eat anything and I’m like no, actually that opens up a whole menu of things.”

Senior Payton Duffy said she joined the club for her love of plants, but that has now turned into friendships with other students.

“I honestly think it’s probably one of my best time investments I’ve made,” Duffy said. “I mean a lot of cool friends and not only that, but we’re learning how to make a lot of cool food. And so I think that’s going to prepare me well for college and learning to make recipes and then not just that, but then i will know how to grow my own stuff and it will help me for the future.

The three-garden courtyard grows vegetables, fruits and wildflowers. The garden was started two and a half years ago but due to COVID this is the first year it has been used for harvesting.

The club is open to the public. Bxx said she needed sponsors to help her buy gloves, shovels and other equipment to work in the garden.

For more information, call Fort Walton Beach High School at (850) 833-3300 or email Sandra Barrette at [email protected]

You can follow the plant-based club on Instagram @fwbhsplantbasedclub

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