OKT’s Program for Growth home gardens are already yielding fresh produce for our participants!
Photos courtesy WGVU.
|Our Kitchen Table has launched its Program for Growth at two schools this spring. We will again be growing food with parents, caregivers, and students at Grand Rapids Public Schools Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy. And, we will be adding a new school — Kentwood Public Schools Glenwood Elementary School.|
|In addition to procuring organic foodplants from Blandford Farm, our food gardens will also be planted with home-grown starters from H.O.P.E. Gardens. H.O.P.E. Gardens provides programs for students in grades K-12, including garden education during school and as part of after-school and summer programs. Students grow food on school grounds, integrate garden activities into their curricula, and save and share seeds with community.|
On April 19, a group of graduate architecture students at Kendall College of Art and Design designed and built five large and two small raised garden-beds at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy. After filling with organic composted soil, Our Kitchen Table Program for Growth participants planted the beds with organic vegetable starter plants on April 23 and 24.
Now the Program for Growth has even more space to grow nutritious food for students at school, their families and people in the neighborhood!
Participants of Our Kitchen Table’s Program for Growth are already harvesting some fresh, organic produce from their gardens and looking forward to an abundant summer season. Ms. Doris shares, “I have collards, turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and sweet herb [stevia]. I’m just loving it!”
Photo courtesy Miss Doris and Stephen Smith.
Our Kitchen Table Program for Growth participants were busy during the month of May!
In addition to planting cold crops like kale and herbs, they also got their containers and raised beds ready for the warm season crops, which will be delivered soon. Farmer Williams delivered premium, healthy soil and helped construct raised beds, including OKT’s first waist-high raised-bed, designed to make growing food more accessible. Participants were careful to follow social distancing guidelines. Program for Growth weekly meetings are continuing via Zoom conferencing.
Last week, under the direction of OKT’s consulting farmer, Kelsey Hakeem, garden coaches from OKT’s Program for Growth distributed cold-crops for end-of-April planting: chard, kale, parsley, and chives.
The garden coaches observed strict social distancing guidelines and suited up with head coverings, protective jumpsuits, masks and gloves. Planting instructions are being shared via text and email. Plants are now in the ground at MLK Jr. Leadership Academy and several Program for Growth participant’s home gardens.
When Governor Whitmer closed the schools, OKT’s Program for Growth at Grand Rapids Public Schools MLK Jr. Leadership Academy kept on keeping on.
With help from her tech-savvy daughters, our executive director Lisa Oliver-King set up conference calling with program participants. Not only has the group been able to keep on learning, they have also been a great support to one another during this time of crisis.
The Program for Growth involves parents and caregivers of students attending the school in food growing and healthy eating education.Through OKT’s each one-teach one philosophy, leadership of the program has come up from within. Five program participants have trained to be garden and cooking coaches for the program.
Kristi Artz, MD, CCMS, with the Spectrum Health Culinary Medicine, and Mary Brown, Lead, Learning & Development Consultant Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) at Spectrum Health, led an interesting discussion at OKT’s Feb. 24 Women of Color Convening, which was sponsored by OKT and the Singularity University (SU) Grand Rapids.
Brown, a futurist, shared the role that artificial intelligence such as drones could play on farms of the future, how scientists are working to create food equivalents in the lab, and how we might be looking to alternative sources for protein in the future, for examples insects.
Dr. Artz shared the role that whole plant-based foods play in building good health. She began by citing the shortfalls of the Standard American Diet (SAD), which ignores nutritious fruits and vegetables in favor of high calorie, low fiber foods that promote chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity. These foods can also impact mental health and make us more vulnerable to common maladies like the flu and colds.
Eating a whole food diet that is based on lots of fruits and vegetables can prevent and sometimes reverse both chronic and acute health problems and address inflammation that underlies many of these issues.
Dr. Artz shared electronic copies of her presentation as well as many reccipes. If you’d like an electronic copy of these, email media@OKTjustice.org.
On Monday Jan. 27, Kristen Trovillion, sustainability coordinator for Grand Rapids Public Schools, shared how she is helping to green the district as well as information for making our own homes greener—and healthier. Grand Rapids is one of two districts in the state with a dedicated sustainability department. So far, she has led GRPS in the following sustainable accomplishments:
Cleaning chemicals. A district-wide inventory found that schools were using a total of 65 cleaning chemicals, many of them toxic. That number has been reduced to six safe products that are equally effective. Kristen shared that hydrogen-peroxide based cleaners kill just as many germs as bleach—and without the dangerous side effects. Did you know that exposure to bleach impacts the respiratory system? It can bring on more asthma attacks or prolong respiratory illness.
Gardens. Kristen is currently making an inventory of all gardens at Grand Rapids Public schools, noting whether they are food gardens, pollinator gardens, or other kinds of gardens. This information will help the district see what goes into a successful garden and to better communicate with grounds staff, who sometimes inadvertently damage gardens during routine maintenance.
Composting. Kristen shared that 80% of GRPS waste is generated in the lunchrooms. Four or five schools are composting a little bit of that waste in the classroom with the help of local Grand Rapids’ compost company, Wormies, and some resident red worms. Eight schools are composting food waste, compostable lunch trays and napkins via a commercial company located in Zeeland. GRPS has to pay to have waste hauled to Zeeland. She is looking into introducing reusable trays at schools with dishwashers, but most schools are not set up for these.
Lawn chemicals. Overall, GRPS does not use toxic pesticides or herbicides and is switching over to organic lawn management. Kristen noted that they only use toxic herbicides or pesticides in urgent situations, e.g. with invasive species like poison ivy. When they are used, notices are posted on the school’s front doors and elsewhere.
Energy use and recycling. GRPS is in process of installing more energy efficient lighting and making best use of natural light, as healthy lighting supports learning. They are overhauling the current recycling system and will be introducing sorting stations to replace the current bins, which cause confusion and tend to disappear.
OKT will be including Kristen’s valuable input in its next revision of A Guide to Replication: Program for Growth, which will be tailored for use by GRPS in replicating the Program for Growth at other schools in the district.