Benefits of Hydroponic Farms for School Lunch Programs

Food service professionals based in school districts have taken control of their fresh food supply by growing with the Flex Farm. These partners utilize indoor hydroponic farms and their produce to demonstrate their commitment to healthy menus, sustainability initiatives, nutritional education, and community health. It has been proven that growing with the Flex Farm helps food service programs across the country produce fresher, higher-quality produce while offsetting disrupted supply chains. In this post, we explore what hydroponic farming is and the advantages of starting an indoor hydroponic farm for a school lunch program.

YEAR-ROUND PRODUCTION

Indoor hydroponic farming is a way to grow large quantities of fresh produce in a sustainable and efficient way. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil using a nutrient-rich water to nourish the plants.

One of the main benefits of hydroponics is that it allows for year-round, indoor production of fresh produce, regardless of the weather or climate. Hydroponics also offers greater control over the growing environment, allowing for more consistent and reliable crop yields. This is important for school lunch programs, which often rely on seasonal fruits and vegetables that may not be available year-round. By using hydroponics, schools can ensure a steady supply of produce throughout the year, providing students with fresh food options that are not only tasty but also nutritious.

EFFICIENT USE OF RESOURCES

Another advantage of hydroponics is that it allows for more efficient use of resources. Hydroponic farms use significantly less water than traditional farming methods, making them ideal for areas with limited resources. They also require less room to grow and can be set up in areas with limited floor space, allowing schools to grow their own produce on-site, reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions. For example, Flex Farms can grow more than 394 pounds of fresh produce annually with 98 percent less water and 98 percent less electricity than traditional farming. This means better quality food, with higher nutritional value is readily accessible on a consistent basis and for less than $1.00 per pound.  Furthermore, food service programs have established Flex Farm operations in underutilized spaces such as unused locker rooms, classrooms, boiler rooms, etc. removing the need to build new infrastructure.

CROP VERSATILITY

The most popular crops to grow in a hydroponic farm are any lettuce variety or leafy green. These crops are easy to maintain and produce a high yield in a short period of time. One Flex Farm can produce over 25 pounds of fresh leafy greens in less than a month. Herbs such as basil, parsley, mint, and cilantro all thrive in a hydroponic growing environment. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are well suited to grow hydroponically. They require a bit more space than some other crops, but they can be trained to grow vertically to save space.

HANDS-ON LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

Indoor hydroponic farms also offer hands-on learning opportunities for students, allowing them to learn about plant biology, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture. A hydroponic farm allows students to observe, experiment, and actively participate in the growth of plants. With the Flex Farm, students can observe and document the entire life cycle of plants, from germination to harvest, within a 30-day grow cycle. This hands-on experience allows students to witness the complexities of plant growth and provides a tangible connection to the fresh food served in their school lunch program.

Hydroponics is an excellent option for school lunch programs looking to provide fresh, nutritious produce to their students year-round. Their efficiency, sustainability, and versatility make it an ideal solution for schools looking to secure a reliable supply of fresh food while also teaching students about sustainable agriculture.

Author: Megan Pirelli, Brand Content Director

Published: 2023

 

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