"The droopy one is peppers," third-grader Simran Shankardass calls to her best friend, Jessica DeKoven.
If all goes well, the organically grown fare will end up as food for students at the Louisa May Alcott School, where a large vegetable garden just outside the cafeteria is planted, tended and harvested by students.
The project is part of a larger movement sweeping the country: From New York to California, schools are getting students out of the classroom and into the garden in a back-to-nature approach to learning and -- perhaps more important -- as a way to introduce them to healthy food.
Some schools even use the student-grown food to supplement their lunches, although that practice is not widespread. Other programs promote the use of crops grown by local farmers to get healthier food into schools.
But "kids actually eat more fruits and vegetables when they've grown them themselves," said Abby Jaramillo, director of the school gardening program Urban Sprouts in San Francisco. "The hands-on experience in the school garden helps kid change their eating habits."
The National Gardening Association's online registry lists 1,500 school gardens, up from 1,100 a year ago, although spokeswoman Barbara Richardson said there are thousands more. In California alone, 2,500 schools have gardens, according to a 2002 survey. Last year, 3,900 schools applied for state grants after the General Assembly made $10.8 million available for school gardens, said John Fisher from the California Department of Education school garden resource center. Some schools supplement their menus with vegetables and herbs grown by students.