WESTPORT, Conn. It sprouted in Westport in 2008. But Green Village Initiative a nonprofit focused on creating environmental and community change has planted roots in several area communities , including Bridgeport, where it hopes to improve the city's health, food and employment.
With the support of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Maura O'Malley, director of food and nutrition at Bridgeport Public Schools, the initiative began its urban edible garden project last summer. With help from local groups including Builders Beyond Borders, Groundwork Bridgeport, Public Allies and educational program Cook and Grow, the initiative hopes to build 30 edible school gardens by 2013.
Thanks to members Karen Sussman, Monique Bosch and Sal Gilbertie, this summer's goal has been met: Nine of the 30 Bridgeport school gardens are up and running. Although help from the initiative's interns and volunteers was critical, Bridgeport students and their families played a dominant role at each school.
"One of my most memorable builds was at Waltersville School," said Bosch, of Westport, one of Green Village Initiative's founders. "Seventy-five Bridgeport residents showed up ready to weed, dig and plant. The students were so excited, constantly asking if they could plant the seeds themselves.
"Several weeks later, I went to check on the garden, hoping to see some produce. That day, the kids harvested 150 heads of lettuce, which we then donated to the local community and senior centers. It gave me a great deal of faith in the hard work that we are doing."
For the initiative, planting edible gardens at Bridgeport schools is a way to educate students at a young age about growing their own food and adhering to lifelong healthy eating habits. The core belief is that kids will develop an interest in fresh, local fruits and vegetables if they have a hand in the production process.
The initiative aims to construct and manage three 2-acre production gardens in Bridgeport over the next year as well that would employ a full-time coordinator, a town farmer and 20 paid high school interns.
"They're taking a life of their own," Bosch said of the Bridgeport gardens. "I just hope I can stay along for the ride."
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