Students at Brunson-Lee Elementary School in Phoenix are getting grounded in learning to grow food. But they’re also learning about sustainability with these community gardens that were recently unveiled at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the school. By planting the seed with community gardens, Valley of the Sun United Way, along with schools, community groups, and the private sector, hope to grow awareness with families and provide access to nutritious and sustainable food.
Along with growing food, there’s also a need to know how to prepare veggies. Like Jayson said, “There’s no guarantee if you grow an eggplant that you actually know what to do with it afterwards.”
So, an outdoor kitchen was built next to the community garden. Two teachers are being trained as master gardeners and will oversee the garden. They’ll engage teachers and their classes about how nutritious food grows, how it’s prepared, and how good it tastes. Students will watch demonstrations at the industrial kitchen as the master gardeners do prep work and grill. Eventually, students will participate in the cooking process.
Areas in the Phoenix Metro are food deserts, as Jayson put it, and there’s not a lot of good quality choices for parents to get fresh fruits and vegetables to provide for their families. That’s where this community garden will get to the root of the problem.
“What this space is going to do is not only provide that sense of education for the kids and parents, but create a space to where the whole community can come together and develop a better relationship with food,” said Jayson. “And in our opinion, that’s one of the key ways for us to end hunger here in Maricopa County.”
The idea didn’t sprout up overnight. Denise Higgins from the IBUS Foundation said her organization got involved eight years ago when the principal of Brunson-Lee came to them and said he wanted to start a community garden. “I consider that sort of a visionary endeavor because now school gardens are all across the United States and we have seen research that has shown the benefits of a school community garden,” said Denise, who’s also a Board Member of Educare Arizona.
Valley of the Sun United Way’s goal is to reduce food insecurity by two-thirds by 2020. “When we talk about chronic food insecurity, we’re looking at folks who continuously need to access those food banks and food pantries,” said Jayson. “We know that food pantries are not the only solution. They’re an important, critical part but we also need to be able to teach people about where the food is coming from.”
The community garden, though, goes beyond sustainability and tackling food insecurity. “It’s also about school pride, it’s about academic success, it’s about so many things that make the community a wonderful place to live in,” said Denise.
It’s definitely about the community and support from many organizations and individuals. “We’re really excited to be in this partnership and know we can’t do it by ourselves. We can only do it in a partnership,” said Jayson.
Plant a seed to help end hunger. Go to vsuw.org/athome