Teaching Children to Eat What They Grow in Brownsville

“Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when a man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will.” Words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While the concept of Community Gardens is nothing new, there are two special elements about the Georgia Avenue Community Garden which was started in 1986 by the late, Mr. James Worth. His work to stave off hunger, promote healthy eating and teach gardening in the community has been continued by the current manager, Mr. Darren Breeden who has been with the project since inception.

Succulent Strawberries at the Georgia Ave Community Garden
Succulent Strawberries at the Georgia Ave Community Garden

The garden is maintained by Mr. Breeden with community support from Ms. Phyllis McDonald, President of the Georgia Avenue Block Association. The garden is nurtured on weekdays and every Saturday children of all ages who are from the community are taught how to plant, the names of the vegetables as well as providing them with useful information about nutrition. This component of the project brings life to the adage, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. Kylie, a neighborhood child said, “I was born in Jamaica and I really enjoy learning to plant. My favorite is strawberries.”

Some of the produce grown in the garden include Callaloo, Scotch bonnet peppers, Collard greens, Bok choy (pak choi), Cucumbers, Strawberries, and Bell peppers. The other component worthy of recognition is that the crops for the Community Garden are selected to reflect the diversity of residents on the block which is made up mostly of Caribbean Americans and African Americans. According to Mr. Breeden, “The folks on the block know they have at least some vegetables to look forward to and the children learn to grow and eat more than American foods.  They understand that they can’t eat fast food all day so if they appreciate this and can see how food grows then they might like it.”

The families on the Georgia Ave. block are the recipients of the produce. Senior citizens are given first priority and then low income, when asked how low income is determined, Mr. Breeden said, “Come on man! I know everybody on this block; I know those who eat steak and those who eat Franks!” Whilst Mr. Breeden has been undertaking this project for over three decades he noted that the biggest challenge is getting Grow New York, a division of the New York Parks Department to continue to donate the equipment, soil, and seeds needed for the garden.

We will continue to call on the authorities and other influential readers to support this worthwhile project as they attempt to put a dent in the global crisis of food insecurity and, instill in our children the importance of working together as a community to enhance the lives of those who are most in need. Furthermore, the skills being taught through the Georgia Avenue Community Garden can be applied to other aspects of the children’s lives. Like their produce, they need the right conditions to thrive and in the event, their garden fails to yield, which is equivalent to life’s challenges, they will have the resource and tenacity to achieve their goals or – in this case, bear crops in abundance.

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