New Jersey Health Initiatives - A Better State of Health
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program
Gardening Our Way to Change
October 18, 2019 / Youth CARES

During the summer of 2019,  Paterson YouthCares worked to improve ourselves and our community by learning more about the impact of food insecurity. We aimed to increase food security through our community-focused summer project. We enhanced and revitalized: Deacon Davis’ Green Acres garden, the garden at Paterson Public School #5, and the Great Falls Youth Center garden. We attended the Passaic County Food Council meeting and talked to local food agencies. We’ve connected with the organizations we met at the Food Council meeting and others to develop long-term partnerships. We purchased supplies to help maintain the three gardens and began planting flowers, berries and vegetables in the gardens at School #5 and the Youth Center. Through all of our work, we have learned professionalism and how to speak with confidence.

At the Green Acres Garden, we painted the fences green  and stained the picnic tables. We also helped distribute the vegetables Deacon Davis grows in the garden. During the last week of our project, we worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a greenhouse. As a result, the greenhouse helps Deacon Davis extend the garden’s growing season.

In the School #5 garden, we dug up and cleaned weeds and grass from the garden space. Once the garden was cleared, we painted the large and small flower beds, and filled all of them with dirt. We planted flowers in the smaller beds, and in the larger beds we planted berries. Finally, we purchased flowers for the garden at School #5. We were unsure whether to buy annual flowers or perennials, so we bought both. We chose safe and colorful flowers to attract and excite the students of School #5 to get them feeling positive and proud of their school. Our hope is that the flowers will last for months to come and the students, staff, and others will appreciate and maintain our efforts.

At the Youth Center’s garden, we removed the weeds, put mulch down, and repaired existing deer netting along the vegetable beds to prevent deer, groundhogs, and other animals from eating the growing plants. 

We researched local food banks, food pantries, and other food resource sites to develop our community map, which lists or maps the locations of community food resources. Our team gathered information on the various organizations participating in food drop-off programs, and donation or distribution programs. We called the organizations, identified potential partners and confirmed additional resources available through these agencies. On our community map, we not only note all of the food resource places in the City of Paterson, but we also note if these locations offer other essential resources, such as clothing, educational courses, and even housing. When planning our phone calls to the agencies, we used a script we developed and made sure we used professional dialogue. So far, we have partnered with Center of United Methodist Aid to the Community Ecumenically Concerned Helping Others (CUMAC), Eva’s Village, Oasis, and a couple of other organizations where we could donate the fresh goods from the Youth Center’s garden.

Overall, our hope is that our work will help families in our community who are food insecure. We continue to want to make a positive impact on our community. 

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Project
Author
Paterson Youth Cares Students
Organization
Paterson Youth Cares/New Jersey Community Development Corporation