As organizations in Rochester realized the impact COVID-19 had on food security for many in the community, they formed a collaborative effort known as Roc Kids Grow.
Plans were made to help 100 families in the Rochester City School District learn about and experience gardening during the time they were socially distanced from school and other learning opportunities.
“The outdoor education and hands-on growing experiences we provide in our programs for school children needed to evolve to meet the needs of this moment,” said Katie Nuber, therapeutic horticulture programs coordinator at EquiCenter Inc. “We needed to adapt in order to continue serving our communities. That meant bringing the materials and instruction to families at home.
“It was important to all the partners involved that we limit barriers to access for participating families. Gardening can be an expensive endeavor, especially in the city where planting in the ground is not always possible. Container garden kits seemed like the perfect solution for supporting youth and their families in learning the new skill of gardening at home.”
Growing Out of Poverty, funded through the RMAPI Participatory Budgeting Project, provided the resources to assemble and distribute gardening kits. Each family received a 10-gallon grow bag filled with soil donated by the Garden Factory. Families also received seeds donated by Black Button Distillery and the city of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services.
Kits included gardening gloves and a trowel. Through the Growing Out of Poverty initiative, three RCSD students received stipends for helping fill bags, assemble kits and make deliveries. The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County and 4-H Youth Development provided a growing tips sheet and information that was contained on a USB Drive.
Families were invited to a Zoom workshop planting party. 4-H educator Lori Koenick and Selena Ragland, outreach coordinator at South East Area Coalition, led viewers through soil preparation, reading seed packets, best growing locations and actually planting in the containers.
Families involved in the project will receive additional gardening and community building support through a private Facebook group and regularly scheduled Zoom calls. Rachel Betts at Connected Communities serves as admin for the group and provides opportunities for connection, including special gardening tips and a place for families to discuss their gardening experiences. The project will end the growing season with a Fall Harvest Party to celebrate the abundance of fresh foods and community grown throughout the summer.
Collaborating organizations include the city of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services, Equi-Center, Connected Communities EMMA and Beechwood, St. Mark’s and St. John’s, South Wedge Food Program, 441 Ministries, Growing Out of Poverty, South East Area Coalition, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County, and Monroe County 4-H Youth Development.