genHkids believes that school and community gardens are great connectors, connecting participants to the source of their food, neighbors to one another, parents to children and children to the earth. They can be a source of food, activity, beauty, mental health, income and respite.
Through genHkids’ Seeds of Possibility gardens, we grow sustainable and beautiful gardens in Springfield’s downtown and east side in full partnership with families who live around the gardens. Community participation is a critical component in creating a garden that is sustained by surrounding residents. These community gardens are successful when they:
2) educate, empower and enrich those living around it
3) are accessible to all
4) have a spring, summer and fall harvest
5) are planted and maintained in an ecologically-friendly manner
6) create a harvest that is used (We use our harvests in local school and church kitchens during genHkids’ Destination Dinner Table events, completing the education of families by teaching them how to use the harvest in their kitchens to provide nutritionally dense meals for their family), and
7) are so well-received and beautiful that they encourage the expansion of this program into other areas of Springfield and surrounding communities.
genHkids’ Seeds of Possibility community gardens are built in economically depressed areas that are often considered food deserts. Working with the faith-based community, genHkids partner schools, St. John’s Hospital, the Department of Public Health, the Boys and Girls Club and many others local concerned local organizations, we plant systems of hope in community-sustained gardens in those areas. genHkids’ farmers organize and encourage these community gardens, engage participant families and educate and empower garden participants. genHkids Educators and Chefs provide training in school kitchens on how to prepare meals from the harvest, and how to preserve surplus for the winter.
In addition to community gardens, genHkids has built and harvested more than a dozen school gardens with our partner school districts; some are in their eighth season. Schools benefit from genHkids’ experience in garden creation, funding assistance, location selection, design, building, planting, education of students, harvesting and consumption of that harvest by students. Vegetable gardens connect children with the source of their food, introduce new flavors and textures, provide physical activity, and expand math, science and reading curriculum to real world situations. Our Grow Your Grub program teaches children to grow their own food, provides lessons in nutrition and stewardship, and allows them to harvest food and sample the fruits of their labors. Research shows that children who participate in the production of their food, whether in gardens or the kitchen, are much more likely to try, and to like, those food options, and vegetable gardens are an excellent opportunity to expand young palates and instill healthy eating habits.
In the long-term, genHkids envisions Seeds of Possibility gardens locations throughout Sangamon County, including numerous additional sites on Springfield’s east side, providing participants with increased access to fresh produce, nutrition and stewardship education, skills training and strengthened neighborhood social networks.