These city girls and boys are learning how to get their hands dirty.
Learning Gardens, a program that combines a passion for science and nature, fosters children from underserved communities in New York City.
According to Good Morning America, the group, under the City Parks Foundation, gives children of color the tools they need to grow their own food and learn fundamentals of community gardening, with a mission focused on food sovereignty and accessibility to sustainable, nourishing food.
Shari Rose, associate director of environmental education for City Parks Foundation, said, “We don’t necessarily think about it like, ‘Man, we don’t have access to [good] food.’ Instead we try to flip it into empowerment. ‘How can we be able to grow food so that we can be able to make snacks for ourselves?'”
Baylen J. Linnekin, researcher and founder of the Keep Food Legal Foundation, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., said indigenous tribes accessed food through traditional hunting and foraging grounds during the colonization of the New World.
The issue for people of color in the United States surrounds the criminalization of foraging and gardening, which was a way Black Americans nourished themselves during slavery. Foraging laws also restricted the financial freedom of Black vendors who sold food they foraged.
“The history of early American anti-foraging laws reveals that supporters of restricting foraging rights typically grounded their efforts in racism, classism, colonialism, imperialism, or some combination of these odious practices and beliefs,” Linnekin wrote in a 2018 research article published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal.
Good Morning America reported that Learning Gardens strives to offer children a way to re-learn these skills that have been “lost” throughout history. Children are presented with knowledge on the impact of fueling the body and taking care of one’s health. Likewise, the children share knowledge from their backgrounds.
Presently, the students can identify edible plants and how to grow them on their own stoops, fire escapes, backyards, or gardens.
“Every season, it’s always been a joy to see our high school students, and even our middle school students, when they’re hungry, they just go in, and they just take something off the vine and just eat it,” Rose said. “We’re just existing, and in fact, us existing in these spaces sometimes can be revolutionary.”