InsideToronto.com article on GTGK

We were written up in an article by Justin Skinner of InsideToronto!

Helping to create Green Thumbs in St. James Town – August 18, 2010 – InsideToronto.com – Justin Skinner

With so little green space in St. James Town, Green Thumbs Growing Kids is looking to give children and youth some gardening space to call their own.

The not-for-profit organization has been running community gardens at three local schools over the past several years, starting with a large garden space at Winchester Public School more than a decade ago.

Since it began, Green Thumbs Growing Kids has helped countless students plant, tend and harvest fresh vegetables at Winchester, Rose Avenue Public School and Ecole Gabrielle-Roy in downtown Toronto.

The program offers after-school programs at Riverdale Park and starts each growing season at the Allan Gardens Conservatory, allowing the growing season to start even when early spring weather in uncooperative.

This year, the program plans to expand to Sprucecourt Public School, exposing yet another group of youngsters to the wonders of growing their own food.

The program teaches kids food literacy and dovetails with the school curriculum by including math, language, science and art components.

While the kids get to plant and maintain the gardens, harvesting and tasting the food as they go and learning about composting and technology as part of the program, the community gets to share in the harvest.

Much of the food goes toward the schools’ lunch program, where applicable, to ensure students have healthy food available.

Providing community gardens for students and local residents is a boon in and of itself, but Green Thumbs Growing Kids has added new community benefits, including a summer employment program for youth in the community.

Sarah Haimes, one of the youth hired to lead the summer sessions said working for Green Thumbs was more than just a summer job.

“It is the kind of job that gives you the opportunity to learn about the bounty of the earth, community building, and especially about yourself,” she said. “Having the opportunity to be responsible and a role model to children gives you a sense of purpose and fullness when you accomplish your job.”

Those youth are tasked with helping children in day camps learn about food, where it comes from and how it is grown, with both the youth and their pupils getting their hands dirty as they tend to the community gardens.

Without those youth, the school gardens would likely suffer when class is not in session.

“The key to school gardens is the summer season, when the plants are growing and need tending,” said Green Thumbs Spokesperson Sunday Harrison. “We have youth in the summer who we train and hire to run our summer programs.”

Those youth gain leadership skills and learn about food and gardening in addition to finding paid employment – their salaries are covered by some of Green Thumbs Growing Kids’ donors – for the summer.

Having locally accessible green space open to children in the community is invaluable in a concrete-dominated community such as St. James Town, where nearly everyone lives in a highrise.

“For some of our kids, this is their yard,” Harrison said. “This is the closest a lot of them will get to being able to plant and garden.”

During the summer months, the community at large often drops by the gardens, adding yet another community-building element to the green spaces.

“Families come together to harvest, socialize and share recipes,” Harrison said.

While the community is key in keeping the gardens lush and green, the program benefits from the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and other organizations.

Green Thumbs Growing Kids celebrated another successful summer on Tuesday, Aug. 17 with a garden tour and community get-together. For more information on the program, visit www.kidsgrowing.ca.

To see the article online go here.

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Toronto, Ontario M5A 2B7


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