Feb 27, 2017

Spring Awakening

Dear Jovial Friends,

 

It was a busy winter for the folks at Jovial. Out partner food bank of 3 years was shut down due to financial reasons. In a crazy bout of luck, Jovial Concepts and Jun-Key SuperFoods were able to purchase the building.

The Barnum neighborhood is a food desert, medical desert, and transportation desert with a higher level of poverty than most of Denver.

We are thrilled to bring our services to Barnum and start transforming lawns to gardens. Allison May moved to Barnum 36 years ago. She moved in with her 2 sisters after domestic violence plagued her home and she had nowhere else to go. She was too afraid to return to work and happened across the ACS Community LIFT. She was given a free shower, free medical care, and enough food to last a week.

After about a month of coming in, she applied for a job and helped in the food bank. She met other individuals who were trying to get back on their feet. She eventaully started a work force development program and helped neighbors get everything they needed to go into a job interview. She worked in our building for 25 years.

Last week we held our first community meeting and Allison May shared her story with me. She broke into tears with excitement and gratitude. She was so worried the space would become a liquor store or some other drain on her beloved community. She rallied the Barnum neighbors and got over 500 signatures in support of our work in Barnum.

We now have 8 jovial garden neighborhoods and over 74 gardens! 90% of the food will be donated and 10% will be use at the new Jovial Concepts building to be used in cooking, nutrition, processing, canning, dehydrating clasess and so much more. We will also have space for Totes for Hope to pack HEALTHY backpacks of fresh food to sustain food insecure students over the weekend. We have 15 large gardens and a greenhouse wrapping our new space. Come out and grow with us!

To best serve our community, we are going to need to fix up the building as soon as possible. We need skilled professionals, materials, tables, chairs, shelving, and so much more. If you can help with our this project please reach out to 303-578-2569.  Our grand opening will be in May and will include live music and a plant sale!

Jan 11, 2017

Planting Seeds of All Sorts

Planting Seeds
Planting Seeds

This past August, we at Jovial Concepts embarked on a mission to begin more in-school garden education programming with our Plant the Seed Project. After weighing some options, we decided that the best available school to partner with would be Eagleton Elementary in West Denver, just south of the infamous Colfax Avenue. This is important because the West Colfax Corridor is a noted food desert where families getting meals from fast food joints, convenient and dollar stores is incredibly more prevalent than your grocery store or local farmers' market. To further illustrate the need for our programming at this particular site, was the fact that more than 90% of the student population gets free or reduced lunchtime meal pricing because of family income or lack thereof. With limited local options for fresh food, we knew that we could provide exposure and furthermore a connection to their food that these deserving students otherwise wouldnt receive. 

So far, we couldn't be happier with the results of our endeavor. We have consistently offered curricula to over thirty 3rd and 4th graders of mostly hispanic backgrounds as part of our gardening enrichment program for the last four months. The garden we use to facilitate lessons already existed on the school grounds. Local community gardeners have maintained it for nearly a decade but have graciously allowed us to use their beds as a teaching resource. So far we have helped them thin carrots a few times but opportunities for hands-on involvement were limited as we are just now taking over some beds of our own. With the Spring season steadily approaching, we are looking to you to help us give these students the garden of their dreams.

The garden boxes are made out pavers which we intend to paint with the students to add to the aesthetic appeal of our garden. To ensure that we return the little ones home nearly as clean as the students were sent to us we hope to buy aprons for use will gardening. The aprons could also hold small gardening tools as we aim to create an authentic experience. Signage will also be needed to denote where specific crops are, and moreso to let everyone know what amazing work our students are doing.

We can use gardens to grow food surely. But when you put them on a schools grounds you can help to cultivate not only fruits and vegetables, but also curiosity and a healthy lifestyle.

Dec 1, 2016

Biggest Impact Yet!

Thank you for making 2016 our biggest year of impact yet!

We have had so many big changes this year and could not have been a success without your support. We started out the year with our new Arvada neighborhood - the Elderberries. We added 12 garden beds to the Arvada area which brought us up to 7,000 sq ft of growing space in Metro-Denver.

Our new garden leaders met monthly to plan beautiful gardens, they came out weekly to help maintain the gardens, and even learned new software to better track our success in the gardens.  But it paid off, we know that over 600 volunteers participated this year and these wonderful volunteers gave over 3,560 hours of their precious time to making sure food got to families in need.

We donated 2,300 lbs to partner food banks (Jeffco Action Center, ACS Lift, and  Arvada Food Bank), 2,650lbs to Edgewater Elementary School's food bank, and 1,150 lbs of produce to Lumberg Elementary. That's over 6,000 pounds of fresh produce donated this year.

An additional 1,000 lbs was given out in our CSA, eaten by our garden hosts, and rescued by the Jun-Key Superfoods Co-op.

We also built new gardens at Eagleton Elementary and Piefer Elementary Schools. We provided materials and curriculum at Great Works Montessori and Edgewater Elementary School's Greenhouse. We laid the foundation for beds to be put in at Kyffin Elementary.

So, what does it all add up to? Families like the Espinoza's who are on a fixed income and have 5 grandchildren to feed were able to provide them with healthy dinners all season. It means families like the Scott's can provide healthy vegetables for their son who has life threatening health issues from their back yard. It means we are building a strong community of neighbors and friends like the Elderberries. Jessica from the Arvada community, she is 6, and knows everything growing in her neighbor's gardens. When it is snack time, she grabs her mother's hand and walks to several Jovial Gardens picking carrots, lettuce, beets, and radishes to take home. All the neighbors know her and look out for her, neighbors that had barely spoken in years are having regular pot-lucks and gardening together. It means children are getting valuable education about nutrition and families on a budget don't have to feel so alone.

Your donations supported over 800 families, 42 gardens, and 6 schools in 2016.

Thank you for all you do and we wish you a very jovial holiday season.

 
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