Children’s Garden Grows Food for the Community - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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Children’s Garden Grows Food for the Community

Children’s Garden Grows Food for the Community

This summer, BBG’s Children’s Garden had to suspend its beloved food gardening classes due to the pandemic. So staff decided to raise food for the community in the fruit and vegetable beds.

When the Garden shut down in March, Children’s Garden co-coordinators Emily Carter and Ellen McCarthy had just finished propagating vegetable seedlings for the spring classes they had planned, but were unsure what would become of them.

At around the same time, the Campaign Against Hunger, seeing an increased need for emergency food for people struggling during the pandemic and shutdown, had partnered with the Brooklyn Museum to use the parking lot and courtyards as a new outdoor distribution site for canned and boxed groceries from its food pantry.

“I was walking home from the Garden and saw the site and remembered the Garden’s history of raising food during shortages in World War I and II and realized what a valuable piece of land we still have for food production right in the middle of a very busy city,” says Carter.

Along with their supervisors, the two formulated a plan to convert the Children’s Garden Education plots to food production so that produce could be donated to the site. Then they coordinated with the Campaign Against Hunger and the museum to make it happen.

In June, the Garden began contributing fresh vegetables and herbs to the program, which serves between 100 and 200 households per week. Cool-season crops and herbs were among the first to be included. Colleagues in the Education department have also joined in the food production effort, and the team has planted a full selection of warm-season vegetables. So far, more than 700 pounds produce have been donated, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, carrots, onions, and potatoes.

“When we drop off the produce, people are waiting already. Everyone’s really excited about having fresh herbs and vegetables, and we’re hearing a great response,” says McCarthy.

The project recently received an award from the U.S. Botanic Garden / American Public Gardens Association Urban Agriculture Resilience Program , and plans are underway to continue the donations through fall and perhaps incorporate the idea into future Education programs.

More: Watch a video about the Children’s Garden’s food production effort.

Sarah Schmidt is a former editor of BBG's digital editorial content and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.

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