Public Info

Union County Freeholders Announce Winners of First Annual Union County Kids Dig In! Grant Program

New Open Space Grant program to fund gardens at 32 schools at Pre K to 12th grade schools throughout Union County

UNION COUNTY, NJ—For the first time ever, The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders today announced it has awarded “Union County Kids Dig In!” grants to 32 schools in 12 County municipalities. The grant assistance covers establishing/building of gardens, garden boxes and/or tools and equipment. It is aimed at educating students about gardening and fostering the growth and creation of community gardens at the schools.

“Our goal is to teach children how food is grown, to educate them about nutrition, and to make them think about the environment and the world around them, including their own communities,” said Freeholder Vice Chairman Sergio Granados, who thought of the program and worked to create it this year as the Chairman of the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. “This is a great way to get everyone involved in community gardening—not only the children, but also their parents, the teachers and local residents.”

Granados noted that the grant requires the donation of a portion of what is grown for community donation, teaching children about charity.

“Studies also show that when children are engaged in gardening programs, their school performances improve and health outcomes improve,” Granados noted.

Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen agreed.

“New Jersey is the Garden State and we have a rich tradition and history of horticulture in the state even with all the changes in density over the years,” Bergen said. “This is a great way to instill the benefits of gardening in our future citizens at a young age.”

The County presented the Union County Kids Dig In! grant program to each school district through its Open Space Trust Fund, offering a total of just under $40,000 in grant assistance through revenues from golf fees administered through the fund.

The grant program covers produce gardens including vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, herbs and spices, pollinator-attracting plants and plants for pest management. It does not cover ornamental plants or non-producing gardens.

Gardens must agree to set aside 30% of their harvest for community donation and enroll in Come Grow With Us!, a free countywide information and resource sharing network for community gardens.

Those applying for grants were given four options, 1.) to apply for tools and equipment; 2.) to apply for establishing a garden with four raised beds with soil, irrigation, soil amendments, seedlings and provisions for educational programs; 3.)  to apply directly for ten (10) Earthboxes with soil, tools, soil amendments, seedlings and provisions for educational programs; and 4.) To apply for funding covering other garden types including rooftop, hydroponic and any others.

The following is a list of schools that applied and will receive assistance through the Kids Dig In! program:



  • Frank K. Hehnly School


  • Walnut Avenue School
  • Lincoln School
  • Hillside Avenue School
  • Calvary Nursery School & Child Care        


  • Mabel G. Holmes Annex No. 5
  • Jerome Dunn Academy School No. 9                                            
  • John Marshall School # 20
  • Abraham Lincoln School 14
  • Albert Einstein Academy School #29
  • Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Academy
  • Winfield Scott School #2
  • Victor Mravlag School #21
  • Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy
  • Juan Pablo Duarte- Jose Julian Marti School No. 28
  • Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy


  • Saint Theresa School


  • Myles J. Mcmanus Middle School

New Providence

  • Morris-Union Jointure Commission
  • New Providence High School


  • College Achieve Central Charter School                 


  • Madison School
  • Rahway High School


  • Harrison Elementary School
  • Washington Elementary School      

Scotch Plains

  1. Ackerman Coles Elementary School
  2. William J. Mcginn Elementary School
  3. JCC of Central NJ- Brody Family Early Learning Center


  • The Deron School Of New Jersey, Inc.


  • Wesley Hall Preschool & Kindergarten
  • Mckinley Elementary School
  • Tamaques Elementary School

The program is the second community gardening initiative the County has initiated in the past two years. Last year, Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen announced the Union County Means Green Community Gardening grant program to community gardening organizations. The program will also be renewed this year.

 Photo credit: Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County.