Home Garden Program
To address access to fresh vegetables and improve the health of low income families, raised garden beds are placed at their homes free of charge.
Current Situation – COVID-19
We have perhaps entered a new era of intermittent social distancing required to preserve public health and safety in a globalized world unprecedented in its interconnection. We have learned, the hard and sudden way, that threats to human health, like threats to the natural environment, pay no heed to national borders. Greentown Grows (a/k/a Greentown Waukegan) has developed a new model of local food production that fits comfortably within this altered social landscape and will be extending its mission and programs to embrace this focus. Our emphasis will begin to shift from ourselves growing healthy food for hungry families in centralized locations to empowering these families to grow fresh and nutritious vegetables for their own consumption at their own homes. Whatever intermittent social distancing may lie in our future, there is no reason for it to adversely impact the production of locally grown food. Indeed, food production engaged in by families where they live and where they may periodically have to hunker down, could become a key piece of the puzzle that we must put together: how to continue the best of our social practices while making the adaptations called for by a “new normal.” Clearly, local food production addresses a vital need that must be carried on despite occasional, short-term disruptions. But as a significant supplement to this customary mode of community agriculture, Greentown Grows believes that its home gardening project will be of substantial assistance in meeting the nutritional needs of hard-pressed families in the greater Waukegan area.
Home Garden Program – New Flagship Program
This project will begin by placing a 4×8 raised bed in ten family homes. Each family will receive lumber, screws, soil, seeds, seedlings, and tools to facilitate a successful growing season. An Installation Team of volunteers will create the beds, and a Home Garden Team, consisting of seasoned and expert gardeners (Garden Instructors) who will the work one-on-one with families to provide ongoing guidance and advice. Capabilities of each family will be taken into consideration, along with providing instruction in Spanish as needed.
The Square Foot Gardening method has been in existence since the 1970’s and has become a favorite method for beginner and experienced gardener alike. With plant spacing reduced, more produce is grown in a smaller footprint and less weeding is required when less sunlight reaches the soil. Watering is faster as well which again reduces the amount of labor needed to grow food. The cost savings to a family is impressive. Each 4×8 raised bed has the potential to save a family $500-$800 for the season and yield extra produce that can be preserved for later consumption. Added bonuses are the physical and mental benefits of learning a new hobby along with healthy exercise in the fresh air.
Greentown Grows’ efforts are centered in providing greater Waukegan’s underserved community with access and resources to obtain fresh, healthy and mindfully-grown produce. Of Lake County’s 703,520 residents, 6.5% are food insecure, and most of these residents live in areas with concentrated poverty, such as Waukegan. The current percentage of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch in Waukegan is 64.5%, with a school district enrollment of 79% Hispanic and 14% Black. Aggravating the situation is lack of ready access to full-service grocery stores on the city’s south side, predominately Black and Latino.