It has been more than a year since we first promised to build gardens for local elementary schools, but finally, we can say we have fulfilled the promise. McKinley Community School in New Brunswick, New Jersey is the proud owner of three flourishing garden beds, with three more still under construction. Peas, spinach, tomatoes, radishes, flowers, and more are starting to sprout up. And while the students may not be able to enjoy them just yet, come the fall, when students return in-person, their new outdoor growing and learning space will be ripe for the picking.
The length of the planning and design phases of the garden pales in comparison to the simple waiting game of ensuring that it was safe to enter the school building and construct the garden. But we used that time wisely. Over these months, we have developed and taught curriculum in 3-5th grade science and health classes, trained high school students in understanding their school food systems and how they can impact them, and begun developing measurement tools and critical relationships to ensure the long-term success of our Healthy Food Relationships in New Brunswick Schools Initiative.
But it all starts here. With seeds and soil and sunlight and water and patience. Without the grant funding and drive to build new garden spaces, we would have no platform to build off of in the coming school years. Where Share Tables were our primary entry point into school food systems before the pandemic, we can no longer rely on their power given continued fears over health and safety and practical considerations as lunch rooms evolve to keep students safe. Gardens are now the foundation of our bigger dreams and we cannot wait to watch them grow.
About the Grantee
Elijah’s Promise harnesses the power of food to break the cycle of poverty, alleviate hunger, and change lives.