FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) —Three Florence schools have received $2,500 teaching garden grants from the American Heart Association to help students learn how to grow healthy food.

Only 50 schools in the nation receive the Teaching Gardens grant, including Briggs Elementary School, Lester Elementary School and Moore Middle School.

The Teaching Gardens program funds community gardens as a way to help children eat healthier.

Farms-to-school coordinator Jeffrie Murray said Florence schools have a problem with hypertension, strokes and diabetes. A lot of these health issues are related to what the community eats.

All three schools have their personal garden where they grow healthy dietary food.

He said that the schools are going to use their $2,500 to expand their garden beds. Lester Elementary School will be adding a new irrigation system and adding garden benches for a comfortable outdoor learning experience.

“Eventually, our big goal throughout the district at each one of these sites is one get students actively engaged in hands on learning activities in the garden setting,” Murray said. “And that teaches them exactly where their food comes from. It teaches them a greater appreciation of food; it teaches them to appreciate the people who produce and grow the food and get it from the farm to the table.”

Murray said that some students have never heard of or seen some of the vegetables that they grow in their gardens.

“It breaks my heart when I see children that probably have never seen some of the vegetables like asparagus or mushrooms,” he said. “And if they just are giving given the environment where they can taste, see things grow, engage with it. It’s not a Band Aid, it can be a fix that will last for generations.”

He hopes that the other schools in Florence will be inspired by their gardens and will also teach students how to grow natural foods that are good for their heart.