MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This spring, an idea took root right outside the front door of EXPO Elementary School in St. Paul, where second graders plan to nourish their neighborhood and help grow a local business with a pizza garden.

“We are going to donate everything we grow to a pizza place,” said Max Schibel, a second grade EXPO Elementary student.

EXPO Elementary had a lot of unused green space that staff turned into a garden two years ago. And although volunteers knew kids don’t always eat their vegetables, pizza rarely fails.

Meredith Leary Johnson, a parent/volunteer at the school, said she wanted to show kids the edible nature of a garden.

EXPO Elementary also reached out to a new neighborhood restaurant, Palumbo’s Pizzeria.

John Palumbo opened Palumbo’s, which is located on Snelling Avenue, about 10 months ago. He said the school, located just blocks away, suggested the idea to grow vegetables that his restaurant would use.

“You’d have to grow a garden on the roof to get any more local,” he said.

Palumbo uses fresh tomatoes and garlic for his Neapolitan style pizzas, and he said he’s proud to soon showcase the ingredients from the pizza garden.

“Produce isn’t cheap and when it’s grown freshly without blankets of sprays, pesticides, insecticides…it’s healthier,” he said. “If we are going to survive and thrive, we need to think about the smaller things.”

The second graders already realize the that the seeds they’ve planted have a much bigger impact.

“I’m really proud,” Schibel said. “And I am also going to feel satisfied, because I am going to get to eat pizza!”

But EXPO’s students aren’t done planting. They will try their hands at eggplants, spinach, arugula, fennel, onions and peppers, which Palumbo’s will use by late summer and early fall.

And, of course, the second graders will also get to taste the fruits of their labor at a special pizza party.


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