Greening Detroit: Community Programs Focus on Kids

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Renewal and Community in Detroit's Brightmoor Neighborhood
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Brightmoor community garden, Detroit. (Photo courtesy of Neighbors Building Brightmoor.)

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr identified blight cleanup as integral to city improvement in his recent City of Detroit Proposal to Creditors. Locals have long worked on city cleanup and green-up. One way is with urban gardening. Some are paying it forward to the next generation and using gardening to teach inner-city kids community, health, nutrition, enterprise, sustainability, even arts and culture. Read on for more about these efforts.

Greening of Detroit

The Greening of Detroit is a city-wide ecology collaborative that's reclaiming Detroit's miles of wasteland from ruin. It connects local gardening programs (several listed in this article participate). Using green infrastructure practices (planned parks, toxic soil reclamation, urban agriculture, repurposed structures), locals revitalize land, improve property values, and regrow Detroit. And kids are at the core. There are internship programs, gardening opportunities, a citizen forestry watch, and Camp Greening. Children learn life science and ecology in hands-on, outdoor ways.

Eastern Market

Detroit got its new Whole Foods Market recently, but there's an older, bigger, fresher, more local food vendor downtown: Eastern Market. And kids' outreach happens at every Tuesday and Saturday market: games, crafts, cooking demonstrations, recycling, entrepreneurial opportunities, local fresh cooperatives, a community market garden, and sustainable farming assistance. Via the Dequindre Cut Greenway, families can access Detroit on bike and foot. Eastern Market recently earned a Michigan Economic Development Corp $1 million grant to renovate Shed 5 and create a community kitchen. Crain's Detroit Business says it'll be a laboratory school for culinary and nutrition classes. Kids get cultural experiences from Detroit's rich ethnic mix at Eastern Market, and buskers entertain. June 30 is the first World Groove Festival, with Caribbean food, music, and entertainment.

Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation

The Healthy Empowered Youth Detroit program at JSCDC addresses health, obesity, and poverty with gardening. Sowing Seeds Growing Futures Farmers Market runs Tuesdays from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. at 18900 Joy Road. It gives local gardeners, young and old, a venue. Vendors accept Double Up Food Bucks -- giving double food stamps (Bridge Card) value for locally grown produce. JSCDC operates community gardens and teaches workshops on nutrition and fitness. They're currently seeking farm market vendors.

Clark Park

When city funding for this Southwest Detroit park was cut, neighbors pooled resources to maintain it for kids. Collectively, they had so much to offer that there's barely room on the calendar to list activities. Along with sports of every kind, Clark Park hosts a community garden, multiple weekly gardening classes, plus fitness and nutrition support. Kids get free lunch, employment assistance, computer literacy, arts and crafts. You might associate Clark Park with Jack White. The Detroit native played there as a kid and donated funds to keep it going, says the Detroit News.

Earthworks

A ministry of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Earthworks, at 1264 Meldrum, offers two free farm programs for kids. Growing Healthy Kids engages children 5-11 years old in horticulture, cooking, sustainability, ecology, stewardship, and nutrition. For kids 12-17, there's a Youth Farm Stand. Youngsters learn organic farming and marketing. The market garden provides income. There are specialty summer camps. Earthworks is branching out into areas of Highland Park and Hamtramck.

Brightmoor Youth Garden

Once one of Detroit's worst neighborhoods, a pocket of Brightmoor is being reborn healthy. And it began with the Brightmoor Youth Garden. Brightmoor resident Riet Schumack told me it's about kids. "We asked our children what they thought about the trashed spaces around them, and they replied, 'Where?' They just didn't see the blight." Schumack and her neighbors helped kids transform the rubble into growing things. Kids sell their produce at the Northwest Detroit Farmers Market.

A teacher and Michigan native, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about issues in her state's most pivotal city of Detroit.

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