The Approach

Ask young people – “How would you create a healthier school? a healthier community?” Support young people by providing tools, resources, structure, and space to explore and create answers to these questions.

This is the philosophy of the Rebel Gardeners, a food education project founded in 2010 at Pepper Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia through a partnership between the school, the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, and the University of Pennsylvania. It involved students, teachers, families, staff, community members, and volunteers. Over the course of 3 years (Pepper closed in 2013), hundreds of students were Rebel Gardeners- tasked with creating a healthier community by growing good food, cooking good food, serving good food, and selling good food – all the while documenting their activities to teach and inspire others.

These projects were designed and are meant to be implemented in high poverty neighborhood public schools- where lunches are wrapped in plastic, energy dense nutrient devoid food is impossible to avoid, and students harness the limitless energy needed to solve these problems and more. The Rebel Gardeners learn about the food system by changing it. is a toolkit to grow healthier school communities.



Cooking the freshly harvested food from the garden takes up a lot of our time. In the Cooking section there are a series of projects that involve processing fresh foods into delicious snack and meals, all housed in a classroom we convert into a kitchen.
Growing our own fruits and vegetables without chemicals ensures our access to fresh, healthy foods. Maintaining the school garden provides ample opportunities for hands-on learning. In the Gardening section there are a series of projects that involve sowing seeds, harvesting veggies, and the transformation of a garden into an experiential outdoor classroom.
Beyond learning how to grow and cook our own fresh foods, we document our work to spread awareness and knowledge to our whole community. In the Media section there are a series of projects that involve journalistic writing, photography, and video editing.