Community Garden Initiative
Sara Continenza & Elizabeth Benninger
Quality of Life category
The Community Garden Initiative grown into a fully formed nonprofit organization: Food Strong. Food Strong’s mission is to strengthen and empower communities through fresh, local foods. They are in Iowa Maple Elementary School and Artemus Ward Elementary School, where they have turned grassy knolls into fully-functioning food and native plant gardens in which students can go to learn, relax, destress, and get healthy food.
Sara Continenza, along with co-presenter Elizabeth Benninger, pitched he idea for a gardening pilot program in under-resourced neighborhoods in Cuyahoga County using an educational toolkit focused on gardening skills, healthy eating, and social and emotional learning. To date, two school gardens have been successfully built and grown:
- Iowa Maple Elementary has 50 scholar participants and 22 scholar meetings/events were executed this growing season.
- Artemus Ward Elementary also in year 2 of the program, is of actively gardening at the school this year. They have 35 scholar participants in the program. In May, 2018, the brick garden beds were constructed in front of the school facing the road. In June, Continenza worked with scholars, teachers, and community partners to design and plant the garden beds with three different garden themes: rainbow garden, butterfly garden, and salsa garden (with veggies to make salsa). Scholars convened twice a week throughout the month of June, and are now meeting on a monthly basis after school to keep the scholars, teachers, parents, and community partners actively engaged. Continenza is also working with teachers on successfully incorporating gardening into their curriculum.
On October 11, both gardens competed in the Freshtoberfest school garden cooking competition. Iowa Maple placed at least second in all four judging categories!