For the past two decades, Growing Power has worked closely with several individual Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to both educate and train students and teachers alike in urban sustainable agriculture. Most recent efforts have focused on building upon these established individual partnerships to create system-wide change in the meal and education programs offered by MPS schools. Using funds secured through the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program, MPS and Growing Power have begun to establish a local food procurement system for MPS meals. In 2008, MPS began incorporating locally grown foods into MPS snacks with hopes of eventually supplying some or all 90,000+ meals/day the district serves with locally grown foods. Simultaneously, Growing Power has drastically increased local production of year-round crops and is increasing membership of our Rainbow Farmers Cooperative, a marketing branch of our organization, to meet the food needs of Wisconsin’s largest public school district. Central to this “farm-to-school” local food procurement effort is the ongoing education of students in local sustainable food production through various activities: tours of the Growing Power Community Food Center, student participation in Growing Power’s annual Youth Corps program, Growing Power staff demos and mini-trainings onsite at schools, and the implementation of school-based community food system projects, i.e., Growing Power’s 20-year partnership with Maple Tree Elementary school to manage a school and community garden.
In Chicago and Detroit Growing Power is working with local partners to support the development of school and community gardens that provide quality, curriculum-based youth programming. Growing Power's Chicago staff support five community gardens and is in the process of developing a Chicago-based Community Food Center to meet the growing demand for locally grown food and training and technical assistance in the development of local food projects (especially at schools). Similarly in Detroit, Growing Power is partnered with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network to develop their infrastructure, programming, and capacity to assist local Detroit public schools in their efforts to initiate local food projects with their students.
With support from the National Education Association Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and Global Giving donors, Growing Power is collaborating with at least 10 MPS teachers (10+ schools) to implement school-based food projects and curriculum-based farm activities. Growing Power staff developed and finalized three curricula instructing teachers on how to work with their students to implement "Farm Fresh Education," i.e., constructing a worm bin. We welcomed these teachers and more than 20 MPS students to our National-International Urban and Small Farm Conference and pre-conference workshops this past September, 2010. The MPS teachers and students received in-depth training in urban sustainable agriculture to help them with their individual school projects. In addition to training and building a strong network of MPS teachers, Growing Power is also actively supplying fresh produce to the third party, Sysco, MPS’ food distributor, on a weekly basis. This produce is further delivered to 22 MPS Elementary schools participating in the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. Altogether, since 2008, Growing Power has supplied at least 46 MPS Elementary Schools with fresh and locally grown food through the USDA Snack program. To meet this growing demand for fresh food, during this Fall quarter Growing Power also expanded urban food production to the southside of the city at the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District site, where the organization recently constructed hoop-houses for year-round production. Milwaukee-based activities were complemented by an outreach and training trip to our partner in Detroit, MI, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Will Allen and Growing Power staff provided hands-on training in hoop-house construction and assisted in the infrastructural development of their food production sites.
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