Moving America Forward

How This Nonprofit is Helping Harlem Students Eat Healthy

June 27, 2014
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How This Nonprofit is Helping Harlem Students Eat Healthy
Edible Schoolyard NYC works with public schools to build organic gardens and teach cooking and healthy eating to some of the city's underserved areas. Edible Schoolyard NYC
Edible Schoolyard is aiming to expand its gardening and nutrition program to the historic New York neighborhood.

As summer kicks off students and teachers are escaping the classroom for some much-needed time soaking up the sun. But a nonprofit and its partnering school are instead using summer vacation to expand its organic garden program — and they need your help.

The Edible Schoolyard NYC (ESYNYC) works with public schools to build organic gardens and teach cooking and healthy eating to some of the city’s underserved areas. Kicking off this month is its crowdfunding campaign, “Rooting for Harlem,” to maintain the program in East Harlem at P.S./M.S. 7 and Global Tech Middle School.

The campaign has raised $7,700 so far, but is looking for a total of $50,000 to add new components to its 4,000-square-foot raised bed courtyard garden and rooftop garden, perched atop one of the city’s building-lined blocks. The money will be used to plant fruit trees and build a willow arbor, as well as update infrastructure like installing new wooden and metal planters for the lower and upper terraces, an irrigation system and benches. The other half of the funds will go towards supporting the teaching staff, who teach growing in and out of the classroom as well as preparing and cooking garden-fresh meals. The students also run a neighborhood farm stand as a part of an after school program that will reopen in September, bringing the same fresh fruits and veggies to their community.

This is not the first city garden ESYNYC has built. The group launched a half-acre, organic experiential garden at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn’s Gravesend neighborhood. Transforming a former parking lot into a leafy refuge, the garden also houses a greenhouse and a stand-alone building that now serves as a kitchen classroom where students learn about preparing and cooking fresh feasts from their own garden.

“Every dollar we raise brings one more edible education lesson to our kids, one more plant, one more positive, healthful, joyful experience,” said Executive Director Kate Brashares. “Every dollar makes a difference in improving a child’s health.”

P.S./M.S. 7 receives federal funding as a title I school, and 100 percent of the students receive free and reduced-price school lunches, according to Edible Schoolyard. More than one in five kids live in temporary housing or are homeless, one of the highest percentages in New York City. The diverse neighobrhood of East Harlem faces challenges similar to other urban communities, including 37 percent living below the poverty line and 30 percent in low-income public housing. The community also faces major health issues. One-third of adults are overweight, one-third are obese (the highest in the city) and 13 percent are diabetic.

As students head home for the summer, it’s important they’re taking their knowledge of cooking and healthy eating with them, and even more important that the Edible Schoolyard may continue its mission in the area. The Crowdrise fundraiser will last through July 17 and interested donors who offer $10 or up will be invited to the official opening ceremony in September.

MORE: From Garbage to Greens: How This D.C. Lot Plans To Make History

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