As a leader in urban agriculture and education, Growing Gardens has consistently addressed the concern of lead in all of our programs. From school gardens in our Youth Grow Program, home gardens across the Portland metro area and within our correctional facility gardens across the State of Oregon, we take this issue seriously and are committed to providing safe growing environments for our communities.
As of August 19th, Portland Public Schools has decided on a temporary recommendation to not eat school garden produce. We understand that this is a temporary hold and that, after more water tests and any necessary spigot replacements, school garden produce will be deemed safe to eat again. We are urging the district to complete this process as soon as possible, so that we can return to serving school garden produce.
Our understanding from lead experts is that ingesting high-lead content soil by not properly washing produce that has been grown in lead contaminated soil is the main health concern. An Oregon State University publication states that plants do not readily accumulate lead in edible parts of plants. In fact, on August 22nd, the Oregon Health Authority stated that: “Watering a school or community garden with lead-containing water is OK but test soil for lead.”
We test all of the school garden soil prior to beginning any project. After PPS released findings and concerns of schools with elevated lead levels, we retested all of the school garden soil and found that zero school garden soil tests were elevated. To be especially cautious, Growing Gardens has established the attached protocols that address the concern of potential lead in school gardens, and will continue to follow these once PPS lifts the temporary hold on eating school garden produce.
To learn more please read the entire official statement: