Building Community in the Garden
The goal at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Camden Street Learning Garden is easily stated: teach community members to grow and cook vegetables, herbs and fruits so they can become more self-sufficient and embrace healthier eating habits. What’s a bit harder to state so clearly is how impactful this goal can be.
Katie Murray, Raleigh Urban Agriculture Programs Manager for the Food Shuttle, said creating a fresh food access point in this community garden at 315 S. Camden St. in the SE Raleigh food desert is clearly important, but the community building that takes place is just as important. “Kids are here virtually every day after school and all summer long,” Murray said. “Sometimes they come with their grandparents or other family members. It’s a safe place to be, it’s fun and they’re learning.”
Katie Murray with her gardening friends.
IFFS launched the garden in June 2014 through a program called Growing Community; children adopted beds in the Camden Street Learning Garden and then their parents got interested. With significant support from the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, a classroom and teaching kitchen were added last year. Murray said this has been really helpful to the community.
“We started Family Meal Nights, which we try to do once a week, because we saw that our gardeners were growing all this food but didn’t know how to prepare it.”
Between Family Meal Nights and the Food Shuttle’s new Seed to Supper beginner’s gardening program, taught in partnership with the Wake County Extension Master Gardener volunteers, neighborhood families are learning how to start their own backyard gardens and grow fresh, local produce that they didn’t have access to not so long ago.
Through its partnership with the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, the Food Shuttle is preparing to launch a youth leadership development program where local teens will learn urban agriculture skills, life skills and leadership skills, as they work to combat food insecurity and food injustice in their community. Murray said the pilot, involving students from various backgrounds at Enloe High School, will help young leaders see their own power and use their new skills to make a difference in their community. “We want to invest in these incredible young people –they have a lot of potential and can be real leaders in creating a more just food system that serves everyone. All we have to do is give them the platform to make their voices heard.”
Murray touts the many community partners who have helped the garden be successful so far. She will share her expertise on starting community gardens at Dig In on March 12 and also will be part of a Networking Roundtable at Dig In on connecting resources and organizations.