October 7, 2010

A Healthy Rooftop: Growing our own Food for the City

Bread for the City’s new and upcoming Northwest Center Expansion is chock-full of exciting upgrades for our services, but one thing about which I am personally the most excited is our upcoming Green Roof, which will be built right on the top of our new building!

Green roofs are roofs that are covered with a layer of soil and some kind of plant life. Not only do they look cool, but they also bring all kinds of environmental and financial benefits. The soil and roots absorb rainwater that would otherwise run off the roof, carrying sediment and junk into the city’s already overloaded stormwater and sewage systems. The plants on the roof absorb sunlight, and the soil insulates the building, which reduces heating and cooling costs and extends the lifespan of the roof. The garden also reflects less sunlight back into the atmosphere than a normal roof, which reduces our input to the urban heat island effect.

I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet: Bread for the City’s new green roof will include a vegetable garden! Original plans for the roof included just sedums (sturdy, low-growth plants), but as the expansion moved ahead alongside our Nutrition Initiative, we started thinking about whether we could grow edible things. Upon consultation with DC Greenworks, we realized that our building’s plans could support the additional weight of a vegetable garden, and the prospect of growing food on top of a food pantry was just too enticing to pass up.

So! Bread for the City is about to begin construction on the first large-scale roof top agriculture project (that we know of) in the DC region.

The 3,500 square foot green roof will feature between 40 and 60 raised beds growing a seasonal variety of fruits and vegetables. The plants will be anchored in an 8 inch soil base, specially blended for the elevated environment, atop layers of drainage, protection, and filter fabrics. A team of volunteers and green roof specialists will tend to the crops, ensuring a healthy yield for Bread for the City's constituents.

Check out more pictures of the construction progress here!

While the volume of food harvested from this “intensive” rooftop will not compare to the thousands of pounds of produce we acquire through our gleaning program, we expect that this garden will serve its own unique purpose.

We'll quote Sherita Evans, talking about our Southeast Center's rooftop container garden: "We lack these kinds of green spaces and educational places here in the community. We're hungry down here-- not just for food but for nourishment of the mind and the spirit. And here at Bread for the City, we're not just feeding people's bodies--we feed souls."

We know that addressing the complex needs of our community will require a multifaceted, holistic approach, and this is another opportunity to build a vision of a city in which all people have access to the resources and space they need to live lives of dignity and respect.

We will not just be planting a garden -- we will also be using the space to teach workshops on nutrition, growing one’s own food, and maybe even basic botany. In partnership with City Blossoms (which operates the Marion Street Garden directly behind Bread for the City), DC Greenworks and other organizations, we will invite volunteers, clients and community members to join us on our roof to help maintain it and to learn about growing vegetables.

And we need your help to make this rooftop garden a reality. DC Greenworks estimates that the garden will cost $50,000 to build, and $15,000 a year to maintain -- not cheap, but we belive it will be worthwhile for a space with such transformative potential.

Will you help us raise our first installment of funding by October 10, 2010? On that day, we'll be hosting a massive block party to celebrate sustainable community projects like these. So in the spirit of 10.10.10, we want to raise: one hundred donations of ten dollars each, ten donations of one hundred dollars each, and one donation of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Will you help? Join us today by giving to:


1 comment:

Mike Vaz said...

NYC is also doing great things with rooftop gardening that would be worth checking out ;)