Seed Sharing During School Closures: COVID-19 Response

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[View original article and more info on Extension’s Local Food site]

As a response to COVID-19, N.C. Cooperative Extension offices are working with local partners to distribute seed packs and start guides to families with kids at home during school closures. Seed sharing has a long tradition in numerous communities and is an act of supporting each other to feed and nurture our whole community, as well as a long history within 4-H and Cooperative Extension.

In our effort to get seeds out to families with kids pre-K-12th grade, we are seeking to offer home-based educational activities to help kids learn about growing while supporting the start-up of home-based gardens to add fresh foods to all our tables.

Numerous school nutrition directors are reporting great support from their 4-H and Extension offices and are happy to have seeds added to meal distribution!

Already in Action:

Brunswick 4-H is sending seed packs out with backpack buddies, accompanied by a tri-fold brochure that has plant-specific information on planting, growing, and eating. Brunswick County 4-H has put out 600 to date, and positioned to increase this number every week. More details

New Hanover 4-H is working with its New Hanover County Schools, Cape Fear Food Policy Council, to send out seeds to fourteen feeder schools. New Hanover Extension has distributed 500 seed packets so far; Each seed packet contains 3 seeds each of tomatoes and marigolds, peat pots and soil, plus how to grow handout with activities both for planting in the ground or in containers. More details

Guilford County Community and School Gardens agent dropped off seeds at a nonprofit community partner, Growing High Point, which has agreed to be a distribution/pick-up location for community, school, and home gardeners that need seeds. Guilford agents also have a plan in place to tape short videos on planting throughout the season to share out.

Orange County is working with Orange County Schools to provide gardening kits for distribution at four county feeding sites. Each kit contains vegetable and flower seeds, soil, and peat pots. We are also including a Jiffy pellet for students to see one of those in action as well. Still in the process of completing an information packet to include with the kit. Planning to target 3rd-grade students. Beginning to distribute 100 kits starting the week of April 6. Will monitor how well these are received and we may build more kits for distribution later on. Most of our kit supplies were provided by Southern States in Mebane at no charge.

Other states’ efforts: Ohio State University, West Virginia Extension, Vermont Feed

How To:

  1. Coordinate seeds to distribute
    1. Procuring seeds
      1. Where possible, purchase seeds from small local garden stores that are likely struggling to stay open under COVID-19 restrictions and needs.
        1. Because hardware stores have been designated as essential, purchases and pickups from them are still allowed.
        2. Some stores will provide call-in orders and outside pickup; check your local business partners to see what the best options are for social distancing in your community.
      2. Also connect with larger businesses or seed companies for donations.
        1. Donations through the mail, to office or home (where offices are closed and folks are required to work from home).
        2. Some local companies may drop off a large box of donation seeds, so you can coordinate about the best drop off location.
    2. Printed material
      1. Handout might include:
        1. Plant needs and seed starting guidelines
          1. PlantIt-GrowIt-EatIt Brunswick COVID (edit for your county)
          2. Veggie Planting Calendar + Planting Wheel
          3. Planting Methods
        2. URL link to Homegrown Video or similar online resource for container gardening & outdoor growing guidelines
          1. Homegrown Container Gardens
          2. Creating Edible Container Gardens in the Piedmont
          3. Home Vegetable Gardening
          4. Look for more resources on the farm to school portal!
        3. EFNEP recipes highlighting seeds offered
        4. Contact information
          1. Extension office location and person to serve as contact
          2. list of local businesses selling seeds, plus
          3. location of any open farmers markets in your area
      2. Other considerations
        1. Where possible, print a how to guide for those who do not have internet access.
        2. Use safe handling practices when bundling seeds and printed material by using gloves and wiping surfaces down. These materials should be treated like you would treat mail, but, to date, no safety concern has been expressed about seed distribution.
  2. Coordinate distribution
    1. Contact the School Nutrition Director or volunteer coordinator for your district school nutrition to see if seeds can be made available for pick up or delivery where meals are picked up or delivered or through backpack buddies.
    2. Contact your local food pantries to see if seeds can be distributed with their meal distribution.
    3. Offer free, no-contact pickup at closed or open Extension offices on the honor system.

More Resources:

  • To print:
  • Online:
  • Funding:
    • Donation letter request template
    • Budget in existing projects running an average of under $75 for 500 packets and school district can give you numbers they are feeding
    • Small grant funds may be available to assist each extension office: contact tes_thraves@ncsu.edu.

Questions/Needs/More Ideas?

Contact tes_thraves@ncsu.edu.