Earlier this winter in the midst of the polar vortex, Steepletown was thinking ahead to warmer days! A small grant proposal was submitted to the City of Grand Rapids for its Neighborhood Matching Fund to build 25 raised-bed gardens and supply plants and garden equipment to 25 households. The primary purpose of this project is to provide residents with the resources that will lead to sustainable gardening. The intrinsic value of this project has many levels: providing a forum to strengthen community relationships; participation in sustainable practices like urban gardening that minimizes carbon emissions; and to increase access to healthy, nutritious foods in communities that have limited availability to such foods, often referred to as “food insecurity”.
Another benefit to this project is that it gave Steepletown’s JobStart participants additional work this spring. Their many hours of labor were counted towards the required matching funds for this project. Chef Karen, who is the Co-Director of Steepletown’s Kitchen Sage training and a local neighbor (she lives one block from Steepletown) also has taken the lead. She is an avid gardener and has shared both her knowledge and the produce from her garden with her neighbors for many years. This project has given her the ability to assist others in getting their hands dirty as well, while enjoying all that gardening has to offer. The long-term benefits to the community is that there is less and less dependence on sourcing food from far distances which both harms the environment and increases costs.
Later this summer Chef Karen plans on offering various cooking and canning classes to those who were given a raised-bed garden. These individuals have also been connected to another local resource, Gardens for GR, thanks to the involvement of Jeff Smith. To follow the growth of this project, follow the story-board on Steepletown’s facebook page.