We’re fast approaching harvest season! This means all 14 of our community school gardens are filled with full grown, healthy, and delicious produce for families to pick up and enjoy. Usually this produce would go towards the kid’s school lunches, but since we are virtually learning this fall, this produce needs to find a new home... in your kitchen!
In an effort to help eliminate the city of Erie’s food deserts, a group of community members led by Doreen Petri, began working on a sustainability plan called Becoming Empowered by Living Our Natural Gifts (BELONG). A food desert is considered an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. In 2018, Erie had a total of 12 different food deserts, specifically in higher poverty areas.
BELONG implemented one to two gardens every year till each school in the district had its own. These gardens would host Erie Farm to School, a program with a mission to “connect students and their communities to fresh, healthy food by cultivating relationships with local farmers and producers, engaging students in hands-on gardening and culinary activities, exposing students to careers in the local food system, and serving a variety of local foods in school meals”.
During the 2018-2019 school year, the group received a USDA Farm to School grant to continue planning their community garden project. Within the last year, they were able to receive an implementation grant from 2020 to 2022.
When the group got word of Erie’s Public Schools not returning in person for the rest of the spring semester, a shift to adult volunteers were able to replace the students. Through the efforts of volunteers from Penn State Master Gardeners, neighbors, friends, and college students, all 14 of the gardens are ready to go with baskets of produce for their communities to take advantage of.
Did you know if you are living around a local school garden, you and your family have access to this FREE produce? It’s true! Now’s your chance to stop by and see what they have to offer! These herbs/vegetables have been growing big and strong all summer to finally be shared with you and your family at the dinner table. Why not stop by your local community garden and share with your family the idea of producing your own food?