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    National nonprofit to gift 100 community gardens to Memphis schools

    By:
    MADELINE FABER

     

    A national nonprofit has selected Memphis as its next site for a city-wide community garden initiative. The Kitchen Community’s expansion into Memphis will create 100 Learning Gardens across the Shelby County Schools, Jubilee Catholic Schools and Achievement School districts. Since 2011, The Kitchen Community has established 200 Learning Gardens in schools and community groups across Los Angeles, Chicago and Greater Denver.

     
    The first school garden, yet to be announced, will start construction in April.
     
    “Memphis is the perfect place for The Kitchen Community to continue our nonprofit's mission of community through food,” according to Joan Haug, President of the Boulder, Colorado-based organization. “Studies show that many kids growing up in Memphis don't have regular exposure to and education around eating fruits and vegetables. By building Learning Gardens in 100 schools across Memphis, we want to encourage healthy kids, engaged students and strong communities.”
     
    Although Memphis has a smaller footprint than Chicago or Los Angeles, the organization’s near $350,000 investment will be the second largest one to date.
     
    “There’s a much larger impact we can make in a smaller school district. There’s an opportunity to have much more impact and be in the majority of schools,” said Courtney Walsh, a representative with The Kitchen Community.
     
    Their innovative “outdoor classrooms” include raised garden beds, sitting boulders and shade canopies to promote learning and play. However, Walsh assures, the organization doesn’t just build free gardens and then walk away.
    The Kitchen Community also creates a local network of full-time educators and advocates to help with planting and provide resources to teachers.
     
    Marie Dennan will shore up the Memphis education team. “Learning Gardens are an asset to schools and communities in Memphis,” she said. “The Education Team provides resources for teachers to develop curriculum focused lessons, and Learning Gardens allow students to benefit from experiential learning in the garden. Learning Gardens also create an opportunity for community members and other organizations to engage with local schools. The most amazing part of the program is that we are in it for the long-term. We check on the well-being of the Learning Gardens to make sure the garden team at each school has the support to sustain and keep the garden bountiful.”
     
    Learning Gardens are available to any Memphis school that applies and fulfills the requirements. So far, 26 schools have submitted an application. To apply, visit here.
     
    The Kitchen Community is also seeking two more Memphis-based positions. If you care about gardening and improving Memphis’s communities, click to apply for Regional Director or Regional Project Manager.