Farm to [More] School(s)

Jeremiah 29:7 - But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 

Our ministry intentionally chose the neighborhood of Hopewell to work in. It is comprised of primarily low income families, many of which are minorities and immigrants. Since we arrived in 2008 it has dramatically improved. However, it is still a community with great need. Our community garden was started to help address this need. Locally grown, nutrient-dense food is hard to find in this part of town, but Hopewell Gardens is working to change this.

Geoff Hartnell assists Academy students in harvesting sweet potatoes that they will later eat at lunch! 

In addition to distributing produce to widows and families in need in our neighborhood, Hopewell Gardens has been operating a “Farm to School” program at The Academy for G.O.D. for the last two years, providing fresh produce from our garden for school lunches. Being situated in the part of town that we are, almost the entire student body qualifies for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) funded by the USDA. We are so blessed to receive this assistance which gives students access to freshly prepared meals at no cost to their families! And not only that, students get to eat the produce that they themselves have helped to harvest in their gardening classes!

After experiencing the success of this program first hand, we have decided that this coming year we will pour our energies into broadening our scope of influence in this arena. In 2017 we are planning to supply fresh produce to two more public schools in our district, two after school programs, and a summer camp! The two public schools closest to us, Andrew Jackson Elementary and DuPont Hadley Middle, also have extremely high percentages of students who qualify for the NSLP. We believe making Hopewell Gardens local produce available to this demographic of children is an extremely worthwhile effort.   

Academy students tour the greenhouse where they see an aquaponics project that was completed by junior high students at the Academy.  

In 2017 we are also planning to incorporate a farm-based nutrition activity for students involved in our C.A.S.E. after school programs, as well as the Camp Skillz summer camp. Students will learn how to harvest fresh produce from our farm, then how to properly wash and package it. From there they will be escorted to our commercial school kitchen where they will be taught how to incorporate their harvest into a healthy snack. The final step of their session is gathering around a table, eating the fruit of their labor, and discussing the nutritional benefits. Our hope for this curriculum is that students would not only learn the source of their food and the work involved to get it from farm to table, but also to help increase their preference for unprocessed, fresh foods.

How do we turn these dreams into realities?

In order to take the next step and meet all these needs, we need more growing space. We need to double the size of our farm. We have the land, but it is currently wooded and undeveloped. We have applied for the 2017 Farm to School Grant in order to help fund this project. We became aware of this grant after a USDA representative toured our gardens this last year and learned about about all we do in the community. She was very impressed and strongly encouraged us to apply for this grant, even offering to help us personally! And so we did!  To find out how you can also help us meet this goal, click below!