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USDA and EPA Make People’s Garden Blossom

The Midwest Region encouraged interns to participate in the People’s Garden as part of its Cultural Transformation efforts.

The Midwest Region encouraged interns to participate in the People’s Garden as part of its Cultural Transformation efforts.

It is amazing what successful partnerships we have developed through our USDA People’s Garden initiative in the Food & Nutrition Service’s Midwest Region. It’s been four years now since we began working with the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Program to create our garden. The garden is a symbol of USDA’s history in connecting our people to the land. Throughout the years, we have helped maintain raised garden beds in one of Chicago’s most economically and socially challenged neighborhoods. Now we have expanded those efforts to include our federal neighbors and partners at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The staff at EPA joined us in 2011 to help volunteer in the USDA People’s Garden. For the summer of 2012, five EPA staff members supported our effort. It was a great collaboration that makes good sense since both agencies encourage good stewardship of the land. It also doesn’t hurt to have them as neighbors just a few floors below in the same office building in the heart of Chicago’s downtown! EPA and USDA staff volunteered several weeks throughout the summer season to help maintain the garden. We learn so much about gardening from the Windy City Harvest staff. They teach us how to space our seeds when planting, show us what plants are weeds and what should stay in the ground, and help us identify and harvest ripe produce.

EPA staff tend to FNS’ Midwest Region People’s Garden in Chicago earlier this year.

EPA staff tend to FNS’ Midwest Region People’s Garden in Chicago earlier this year.

The Windy City Harvest program employs at-risk adults who learn practical skills in gardening that prepare them for future green jobs. We work together with them on all the aspects of tending a garden, including harvesting thousands of pounds of beautiful, fresh produce! The produce is then donated to local Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) centers and a wellness center.

In 2012, the six Windy City Harvest garden sites together, including the Midwest People’s Garden, reaped almost 70,000 pounds in fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce has made a difference in the lives of many low income Chicagoans—and partnering with other federal agencies has helped make this a reality.

We are grateful to be able to provide our support – both through symbolic and volunteer efforts. We hope to continue our success on the People’s Garden initiative in 2013.

4 Responses to “USDA and EPA Make People’s Garden Blossom”

  1. William S. Hart says:

    Thank you for help spending our tax $ wisely.
    Community gardens and food hubs are needed.
    Hope we can continue the progress.

  2. William S. Hart says:

    What do you mean “moderation”?

  3. Lynn Avery Blankenship says:

    In Metcalfe County Kentucky, where I work as a Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, we partner with the local housing authority and the residents in the subsidized housing complex to support residents in planting a community vegetable and fruit garden, each year. This project has empowered residents to increase their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, learn correct methods of food preservation and to lower their grocery costs. This project is in its second year of success!
    We also provide a community garden space next to our local Kentucky Proud Farmer’s Market, for community members who want a garden but do not have a suitable space. We have had numerous families participate as family projects as well as a local day program for senior citizens and residents with disabilities. The day program uses the produce in the preparation of its daily lunch menu; they have increased considerably the utilization of fresh produce in the lunch menu, as a result of this project.
    We also do community gardening projects with the schools in our county. We have found that children who grow vegetables are far more likely to consume them as a regular part of a healthy diet.

  4. Maurie Thomas says:

    That is nice, community gardens help people appreciate the rewards of eating fresh vegetables.
    I am born and raised in Los Angeles,there has always been a very large comunnity garden ever since I can remember on Alameda and close to 25th street. About 5 years ago it was destroyed, movie star activists were involved, TV news teams and lots of people, but theu mowed it down and cleared the land whic today stands a very large vacant lot.
    It is just an empty lot.

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