Shane Gamble, University of St. Joseph, DI’ 17
Can fruits and vegetables serve other benefits besides eating them to stay healthy? Calling all foodies, gardeners, nutrition fanatics, and those who just want to learn more about this trendy subject! Well then I will tell you all about an amazing nutrition program called, The Garden Project which launched in 1992 out of the hilly city of San Francisco, California.
We’ll first start off with some basic background info and move into more specific content later. Back in the 1980s, there was a push for keeping inmates out of trouble and reducing the likelihood of criminal behavior relapse or recidivism in many parts of the USA especially California. So from 1982 to 1992 a woman named Catherine Sneed created a program for inmates called the San Francisco County Jail Horticulture Project. It provided inmates with the opportunity to grow vegetables and give them away to individuals that were in need. Her program was such a success, but then there was the question of what’s next? These inmates get out of jail and then how can we encourage this same giving back and positive behavior aspect?
Well, that’s exactly how The Garden Project was created! Without Catherine Sneed this program would not have been here today. So we must thank her for her hard work and time dedicated to this cause. The Garden Project started off as a program to provide support and employment opportunities for former inmates or offenders of the law. It also involved the same idea of growing organic vegetables to give away to people, but also did other great things such as planting more than 10,000 street trees in the city of San Francisco! The idea was to incorporate exercise trying to make a difference by providing the opportunity of a second chance.
Its mission was to help offenders of the law by: providing job training, counseling, continuing education, and evolving their community into a more positive one. At this time, they were the only organization that had a focus on this particular mission. Nowadays, The Garden Project not only helps former inmates, but also youth in high school and young adults in college. In addition, they are able to transform the urban environment that they live in. The United States Department of Agriculture hailed The Garden Project as “one of the most innovative and successful community-based crime prevention programs in the country.” So they must be doing something right if the government is on board and an avid supporter am I right?
Within The Garden Project there is a program called, The Earth Steward’s Program. In order to participate, the individual must be 18 to 24 years old, a resident of San Francisco, and enrolled in college. Program participants can work daily throughout the entire year and are also enrolled in a mentoring program. They must be enrolled in the program for at least 3 years. This program provides individuals with experience in horticulture and teaches them how to grow organic produce that can be shared with families throughout San Francisco. Zucchini, collard greens, potatoes, garlic, Swiss Chard, kale, and broccoli are all grown throughout the 15 acres of land that the program resides on. Program participants become involved in neighborhood greening projects, construct and take care of gardens at police stations, housing developments, and support their community clean-up efforts. Other skills taught include: planting techniques, composting, propagation, and weeding.
The Garden Project brings the community together through meetings, fairs, and projects. They are also a partnership of more than 25 public and private organizations including the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, the San Francisco Police Department, and the California Department of Forestry to name just a few. The program educates the community about their nutrition by providing quick, easy, and fun recipes that encourage healthy eating habits. So it’s not a surprise that people from all over the world come to visit and learn firsthand why The Garden Project is so successful at crime prevention.
Now you know that The Garden Project is very popular, powerful, and successful. It’s a program that has kick started a new perspective regarding nutrition and education. It allows offenders and the at-risk youth to make the choice to turn their lives around and get back on the right path. What I found most surprising about The Garden Project was that it allows its participants to grow into more successful people through the use of nutrition education. Who knew that learning to grow vegetables could have such beneficial effects regarding crime?