For almost 30 years, Kansas City Community Gardens has helped families improve their lives while making our landscape more lush and delicious.
In that time, this small but mighty nonprofit has taught thousands of people — many among the most needy — to grow food in community and schoolyard gardens. As we celebrate our tenth year, we celebrate this critical organization that has been such an important partner of KC Healthy Kids.
We joined forces with Kansas City Community Gardens for the first time in 2008 to help kids eat better and learn where their food comes from. Through our Bi-State Healthy Kids Initiative, we funded a schoolyard gardens coordinator position within their organization, which was filled by Andrea Matthew. With her hard work and the organization’s continued growth, the number of schoolyard gardens in the area has increased from 14 in 2008 to almost 200 now.
This spring, we partnered with The Giving Grove, to help students plant an orchard at Burke Elementary in the Hickman Mills school district. Hickman Mills has been a longtime partner of KC Healthy Kids, and we were proud to donate 6 of the trees, doubling what the students had originally intended to plant.
The Giving Grove, which became a program of Kansas City Community Gardens in 2012, brought the trees and all the supplies the students needed.
The 12 trees they planted with students will each bear 300-500 pounds of fruit over their lifetimes, which can span 30 years. The fruit will be served with school lunches and will be made available to neighbors who can come pick the pears and apples to eat at home. The students’ time and effort will result in healthy, local produce for their community for years to come.
“Partnering with KC Healthy Kids in the Kansas City Community Gardens Schoolyard Gardens program is helping us to broaden our curriculum options to share with teachers and other garden coordinators,” said Ben Sharda, executive director of Kansas City Community Gardens.
“We look forward to continuing to work with them and their Farm-to-School Academy to help ensure that nearly 200 schools participating in our Schoolyard Gardens program have access to standards-based curriculum options educating students about healthy eating and growing fresh fruits and vegetables,” Sharda said.
In 2013, Kansas City Community Gardens’ expertise was critical in launching water access grants in KCK and KCMO. The funding gives urban farmers easier, more affordable access to city water supplies. Kansas City Community Gardens helped shape the programs on both sides of the state line, and in KCMO, they manage the entire program. That includes performing water audits for growers who are applying for funding and giving site-specific recommendations for how to best access water, whether through a municipal tap and hydrant or a rain catchment system.
“Our organization and the community, school, and home gardeners we work with continue to benefit from KC Healthy Kids’ community advocacy for healthy eating in Kansas City. Beth Low and the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition have worked tirelessly on behalf of ours and other local community organizations to help make sure that urban agriculture remains at the forefront of our city’s ongoing dialogue about nutrition,” Sharda said.