Thinking Outside the (Garden) Box
Just a few short months ago, the West Essex YMCA was very excited to learn that we would be receiving an NJHCN grant for the third time to continue to promote healthy eating and physical activity in the St.Cloud school and surrounding West Orange community.
Our lead gardener, Cherie Kipple, a retired English professor, life-long gardener and West Orange resident was already hard at work. She had begun the process of sprouting a wide variety of vegetable seeds including arugula, beets, leeks, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant on jute mats, ready to transfer into trays. Cherie was excitedly anticipating sharing her passion for gardening and promoting the deliciousness of home grown vegetables with the St. Cloud students. We were ready to hit the ground running in the Spring.
Then the world as we know it was turned upside down. When a two week closure of the schools was announced, we forged ahead with a phone call with the St. Cloud Principal, Mr. Price, and tentative plans to meet with members of the Safety and Wellbeing Committee, the Environmental Club and the PTA, to start planning the expansion of the existing elevated gardening beds and to plan a Spring cleanup event.
Now it has become apparent that this situation could continue much longer than any of us could have thought possible. The previously unthinkable ‘Will students even return to school this year?’ may become a reality. The continually evolving situation including orders to stay at home and maintain social distancing have really caused us to think outside the box – is there a way to engage in something as hands on as gardening in our increasingly virtual world? We are not 100% sure, but we are going to give it a try anyway.
Our plan is to recruit 15 local families through our Y Before and After School program participants to join a Virtual Community Gardening facebook group. We will make arrangements for them to pick up the seedlings, then use the group to provide tips and guidance as the families share their growing experiences. Watch this space!
About the Grantee
The West Essex YMCA, a Branch of the Metro YMCA of the Oranges, is a mission driven organization and trusted community partner. For the past 50 years, the Y has been serving the needs of the community with a focus on youth development as a leading provider of child care and summer camp programs, healthy living and disease prevention programming for children to seniors and social responsibility.