In an effort to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income individuals and families, University of Michigan-Flint’s University Outreach partnered with Mid Michigan Community Action Agency to coordinate seven community gardens across central Michigan. Mid Michigan Community Action Agency is a non-profit, human services agency serving Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Mecosta, Midland and Osceola Counties since 1966.
Overall, over 45,000 square feet of garden space was planted in Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Mecosta, Midland and Osceola Counties with the collaboration of several local agencies. The seven gardens produced more than 6,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables including potatoes, greens, cabbage, tomatoes, melons, peppers, brussels sprouts, eggplants and beets that were distributed throughout mid-Michigan.
In addition to providing fresh produce, the gardening project offered educational opportunities to learn about growing food and cooking healthy foods using fresh produce. A few workshops were held throughout the mid-Michigan region in hopes of encouraging more home gardens. University of Michigan-Flint students were also involved in the project. A group of four communication majors designed a comprehensive communication plan for the gardening project as a service-learning component to their Senior Seminar.
University Outreach and Mid Michigan Community Action Agency community gardens grew and distributed over 6,000 lbs of fresh produce to low-income families!
The 2009 growing season also marked a new partnership with the MichiganWORKS! Summer Youth Employment Program. MichiganWORKS! supported central-Michigan youth, ages 17-22, in their provision of daily care for four of the gardens while MMCAA and UM-Flint’s University Outreach provided oversight for their summer of work. When asked about their interest in gardening, the youth said that they were happy to be learning gardening skills, responsibility, and teamwork. One youth was particularly surprised to find out that gardening was more exciting that he had anticipated: “I thought it was going to be boring but it isn’t. Now I know that if I get bored or hungry, I can grow my own food.”