Posted on 19 December 2011 by urbangardencasual.com

From Backpacks to Garden Skills-Teaching a New Generation of Gardeners

By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

During my time as a schoolteacher, I have seen and heard some horrid things.

Some things I stepped up and did something about it while others, I am ashamed to say, I did not.

I had hoped and prayed that someone else would step up and do the right thing but in this situation it never happened.

I live with my decision everyday and wonder if I could have really changed the course that this student was traveling but since I cannot turn back the hands of time I will never know. But…

This but always seems to pop up when I am faced with a dilemma so this year I have decided to face the dread but and do something about it. I have decided not to wait, hope and pray for change but instead make the change myself and this change is going to start in my community.

My community has suffered from economic downfall like many other communities far and wide. While this community has never really been rich, the past few years have really take a toll on the residents. More and more kids are on the free or reduced lunch program while others are flooding the already full backpack program. This program packs food in backpacks for kids to take on Friday and return on Monday. In many situations, this is all the food that is available for the student over the weekend. But….

This food is only distributed during the school year and while my community did try to help these kids in the summer. It was only a temporary solution to a growing problem. The two elementary and the secondary schools were open for breakfast and lunch. There were no income restrictions and you only had to be 18 or younger. It was a good start but being an aggie I knew I could do more. But…..

Doing more requires an idea that will not only put food in their tummy’s but give them the skills to improve their situation. The father of this project was hunger and the mother was knowledge. When these two ideas met, courted, married, and conceived, they gave birth to The Maxwell Project.

This project is near and dear to my heart. The Charlestown Community Gardens will have a second phase where 10 larger beds will be constructed. Along with this 2012 expansion, The Maxwell Project will utilize at least 5 hopefully 10 of the smaller beds. These beds will be utilized by students in the backpack program to grow their own food along side a community sponsor. This 4 by 4 bed will become the student’s land by which they can grow whatever they want and keep the fruits of their labor. But…

On the surface, this project only feeds their stomach but as any gardener knows gardening is more than soil underneath ones fingernails. My goal is that these students will learn that they do have control over their destiny and that even a simple tomato can quiet a growling stomach and feed the mind with the wonders of nature.

If you would like additional information about The Maxwell Project visit the Facebook fan page and the site.

Until we blog again, may we all change children’s lives one garden at a time.

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