Local. Organic. Sustainable. Great buzzwords. But for an organization dedicated to meeting so many urgent immediate needs, "going green" can seem like a daunting prospect.
Yet even the smallest seed can, with care, grow into great bounty. So, recently, at our Southeast facility, we've started planting some seeds in the one part of our building that isn't already bursting at the seams: the roof.
Up to this point, the roof has primarily been known as a great place to get locked out on. But now it features the budding of a small experimental container garden. So far this season, we have been growing radishes, tomatoes, and several types of herbs, including parsley, mint and oregano. Someday soon, we hope this garden will be the inspiration for lots of inter-generational learning, as well as "some darn good cooking."
|Sherita Evans, Community Resources Coordinator|
Sherita adds that the recent loss of Food Program Director Ted Pringle has motivated her to redouble commitment to the garden project. "As a site of rebirth and growth," she says, "this is a proper memorial to Ted."
Though its productive capacity will be limited, the garden can produce ample herbs to complement the food from our pantry, which will be especially great for our new cooking workshops. This makes it a special complement to our Nutrition Initiative: an opportunity to demonstrate the cooking process from start to finish. "We want to show clients that growing your own food isn't hard even in small spaces like balconies and window sills," says Sharon Gruber, our Nutrition Consultant. "And the results are that much better!
|Sharon's workshops can include basic gardening and the use of fresh herbs and veggies |
Despite the small scale of the project, we see big implications -- like the opportunity for parent-child gardening classes, which could bring families closer together while bringing them closer to the food they eat. Recent research has show childhood fruit and vegetable consumption doubles when children are exposed to the process of growing and preparing their food. Moreover, "food habits and eating patterns learned in early childhood continue into later childhood and early adulthood...This means that emphasizing healthy food choices at an early age can have a major impact on a person's future health," says a study recently published in the journal Nutrition and Dietetics.
One driving force behind the project's progress so far has been Anna Melton, a familiar volunteer face around Bread for the City Southeast. Anna, who recently moved to the neighborhood, has cultivated a community garden in her own backyard, and believes in the transformative power of communal green space.
Anna approached Garden District, a popular garden store in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. We're pleased to say that Garden District provided our new garden with its first donation: 4 bags of soil, a few pots and several plants, including tomatoes, oregano and parsley. Old City Green also pledged six pots of mint and nine pot of stevia, a natural sweetener that will provide a healthy alternative to the processed sugar found in most packaged and prepared foods.
Most exciting of all: Frager's Hardware (just across the river from us) pledged to donate marjoram, basil, fennel, chives, catnip (which you can actually cook with), and sage -- but when Anna came to pick it up, they also decided to chip in about 5 flats of cabbage and cauliflower. "[The plants] don't look great, since it's near the end of the growing season, so people might not have been eager to buy them, and they might otherwise have gone to waste" says an excited Anna. "But they're still very much alive and will thrive with a little bit of attention and sun." Altogether, this donation has more than doubled the size of our fledgling garden -- thank you Frager's!
Anna now plans to canvas additional local hardware and garden stores, and is looking for help and donations. She says: "We are hoping for pots of all sizes and types, vegetable and herb seedlings and cuttings, potting soil and plant supports (ie: trellises and garden wire). If you would like to help, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org"
Above all, this project is ultimately about the two things that Bread for the City strives for most: dignity and respect. Says Anna, "even having a small pot of something you can say you grew yourself is pretty amazing."