The City Harvest Program, launched in 2006 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, provides locally grown produce to those in need by distributing seeds and transplants, which are grown by urban gardeners, to various food banks across the region.
The program is designed to break down barriers that prevent Philadelphians from accessing fresh fruits and vegetables, such as an overall lack of affordable products, culturally familiar products, access to neighborhood grocery stores, and cooking and education for people to grow their own produce.
PHS City Harvest Project distributes approx. 250,000 seedlings per year to gardeners who grow and donate more than 55,000 pounds of produce each year, which helps to feed over 1,200 families per week during the growing season. This includes residents of neighborhoods with some of the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity in the region.
The Roots to Re-Entry program uses growing of food as a way to help inmates
Trainees from the first cycle of Roots to Re-Entry.
Producing food for those in need, however, is not the only goal of the program. The Roots to Re-Entry Program is an extension of City Harvest that uses the growing of food as a way to help inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) gain skills and experience. The program offers inmates a chance to work on a farm while also providing seedlings to the City Harvest program and growing food for themselves on-site at the prison.
“PHS City Harvest and Roots to Re-Entry intersect at the prison campus, where inmates are learning a multitude of skills in landscape management and food productions,” said Francis Lawn, program manager of Roots to Re-Entry, in an email. “It affords us the opportunity to broaden their training experience at one location. Plus it gives them a deep understanding of how their work impacts the community at large – whether it relates to food safety or beautification.”
Participants receive 12 weeks of training, which establishes knowledge in planting, gardening, growing, landscaping, community engagement, and career training. The inmates plant and tend to thousands of seedlings, which are either transplanted to over 40 gardens overseen by City Harvest volunteers or are grown on-site at the prison.
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Lawn is hoping to to improve and expand the program, which is currently in the process of getting ready for its next cohort in March.
“At the prison, we are in the process of refining our curriculum for the next cohort of Roots to Re-Entry participants which will begin in March, integrating horticulture training with workforce literacy and readiness, thanks to our partnerships with the Philadelphia Prison Systems and the Federation of Neighborhood Centers,” Lawn added.
Future Plans for City Harvest
Raised beds in Strawberry Mansion.
The City Harvest program is currently working on expanding its network of Green Resource Centers, neighborhood-based greenhouses that support and empower small-scale, entrepreneurial food growers.
“These expansions will allow us to directly serve the communities by growing and distributing culturally-appropriate, organic food as well as building capacity across the network of City Harvest growers by propagating seedlings and leading training workshops,” said Lisa Mosca, the community food systems manager.
The next Green Resource Center will be built with East Park Revitalization Alliance. The center has been in development since 2014. The community garden has been built and is serving approximately 40 community gardeners.
At the Center, City Harvest also partners with Strawberry Mansion High School with its Culinary Arts program. About 10 raised beds have been built and are used by the students as hands on experience growing herbs and vegetables as a that are used in the class and for events.
The next phase of development of the Green Resource Center is taking place now and a new greenhouse will start construction soon with completion around July 2015.
Other goals for the future of the program include increasing long-term land preservation for food production, providing healthier, local fresh food for school lunch programs, sharing nation-wide innovations in food production, and achieving the Greenworks Equity aim of making sure fresh local produce is within a ten minute walk of all Philadelphians.
Photos via Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Kristen Gillette-30-
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