By Bolton Kirchner
Class of 2011
On an unusually cold evening for Mississippi, several community partners gathered in the vegetable garden at Brown Elementary School in the Midtown neighborhood, just west of Millsaps College.
Those present shared stories of teaching children about the importance of eating healthy fruits and vegetables, and talked about coupling this education with the important lesson of how to grow their own food.
Partners from Brown Elementary School, FoodCorps Jackson with the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity, the 20/20 Foundation, Leadership Greater Jackson, and the Millsaps College 1 Campus, 1 Community Center for Engaged Learning and Living celebrated and accepted a grant from the 20/20 Foundation that will be used to make improvements to the garden.
Standing within the garden, it was easy to understand the unique education that happens there. Anna Richardson, FoodCorps garden coordinator for Brown, showed different types of vegetables that she and the students had planted. One bed contained different kinds of greens such as mustard and chard. Another bed contained rows and rows of carrots, which would be used to make carrot cake for all of the Brown Elementary students to taste.
The partners were brought together because of connections made between people willing to work to make our community a better place. During a Millsaps football game, Kenneth Townsend, special assistant to Millsaps President Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, and Dr. T.W. Lewis, a former Millsaps professor and a member of the 20/20 Foundation, talked about the foundation and its funding to support school garden programs.
Townsend brought the funding possibility to the attention of the 1 Campus, 1 Community fellows, who facilitate partnerships between the College and organizations within the Midtown neighborhood.
The garden program at Brown was already functioning and able to impact students but needed additional infrastructure. The grant was welcome as it is difficult to find grant funding to support current programs.
The garden at Brown had its inaugural planting in the fall of 2011, and has had a planting each season since then. FoodCorps, a national program that places creative and eager individuals in schools to support garden programs, partners with Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity and the Jackson Public Schools to provide garden coordinators at Brown and other schools.
At Brown, students receive in-class lessons about the parts of a plant and how things grow and learn about different kinds of vegetables. About once a week, Richardson takes the students to the garden for lessons. The students follow the growth process from planting to tending to harvesting, and then eat the vegetables from the garden. Millsaps students have the opportunity to work with students at Brown and to help tend the garden.
The funding from the 20/20 Foundation will pay for materials to create a basic outdoor kitchen.Tables will be built and a new concrete floor will be laid in an existing pavilion structure.
Hand cranked blenders that students can use to make their own smoothies - or even pesto - will be purchased. So will a new outdoor shed where the garden coordinator can store equipment and tools for the garden instead of inside the school, making more time for lessons in the garden.
All the partners gathered that cold evening to support the intentionality of a full circle garden program, one where students learn not only about healthy eating but also have the unique experience to take healthy eating into their own hands by growing food themselves and taking part in cooking, and then eating, what they have produced.
Millsaps College, through the 1 Campus, 1 Community program and other initiatives, is proud to take part in this ground breaking work in the community. We look forward to seeing the impact of this program on the students at Brown Elementary, as well as our own students who get to enhance their own learning through this transformative program.