Return to Headlines

Students turn grant into food for families

Published December 27, 2022

How do you feed a planet whose population will reach 9 billion in the next 15 years? Here at home, how do you help those in need access affordable, healthy food?

Big questions with complex answers, for certain, but three Rolling Meadows High School students are doing their part by using a grant to bring the benefits of hydroponic agriculture to local families. Junior Ekaterina Yordanova and sophomores Damian Gil-Lara and Nora Tosic successfully applied this fall for a $2,000 grant from Indianapolis-based Corteva Agriscience and Adventure Capital.

Working as a team, they are using that money and what they’ve learned in agriculture teacher Kirsten Eubanks’ Food Science class - plus an early December mentoring visit to Corteva’s headquarters - to design and distribute hydroponic kits to local families. 

Each kit will contain all the elements needed to produce a range of green leafy foods –  herbs, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or other plants that do not feature a woody stem - through hydroponic horticulture. To ensure that families know how to use the kits, Ekaterina, Damian and Nora will host information nights early in the second semester and produce instructional videos in eight languages: English, Bulgarian, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Serbian and Spanish. While the translation process may at first seem daunting, it is aided by the fact that Ekaterina, Damian and Nora are fluent in Bulgarian, Spanish and Serbian, respectively.

Hydroponics is the process of growing food without soil and by providing plant nutrients by way of water. It is hardly a new method of growing plants. It has, however, generated increased attention in recent years because it can provide food more quickly than more conventional agriculture and do so without soil and by utilizing much less space.

“We’re passionate about this class because it’s sad to see a lot of people who can’t afford good food,” Damian explained.

Nora added, “We’re excited to provide information nights about how this will work. We’ll be publicizing through email and social media; we’ll provide people with everything they need: nutrients, seeds, instructions and contact information.”

In the meantime, Ekaterina said, the three are ordering and testing a few online hydroponic kits to make sure that the kits they produce will work as intended.

While all three students are entertaining a range of career options, agriculture is among the options for each.  Ekaterina said the Ag Science work has piqued her interest in an agriculture-related career. Nora is considering environmental science careers that might include an agriculture angle, and Damian is considering agribusiness.

For Ms. Eubanks, the three students’ pursuit of the grant and determination to serve the community is a bonus to teaching a class she already finds meaningful. “I love showing students how to grow food in a more urban environment,” she said. “These students are really motivated and working as hard as they possibly can.”