Published on May 15th, 2012 | by Jessi Stafford2
Urban Gardening: St. Louis Sweetens the Pot(ato)
Starting an urban garden, or any at-home project for that matter, can be time consuming.
Projects like The Sweet Potato Project out of North St. Louis, Missouri (my old stomping grounds) offer a little inspiration to accomplish something similar in your own community.
Many parts of St. Louis (STL) suffer from a common metropolitan plight called “food deserts.” As many of us know, these are areas where healthy, fresh foods are hard to find, access to transportation is limited and fast food reigns.
The Sweet Potato Project seeks to change this rut, by investing in some roots. Here’s what STL journalist Sylvester Brown, Jr. had to say:
This pilot program is designed to teach a group of high school-aged children that there are indeed opportunities within their reach. Young people will be paid a minimum wage salary during the summer to plant and harvest sweet potatoes, create a product and learn how to market and distribute what they’ve created. We will nurture the spirit of entrepreneurism in kids who will go out and sell their product and receive commissions after the school year begins. The idea is to show them that there are viable (and legal) means within their communities in which to make money.
Brown’s mission is to provide an alternative to dealing drugs out of necessity, teach lasting skills like planting and wage earning, and offer access to fresh produce. Area organizations invested in the project will provide mentorship, marketing help, fundraising and much more.
As Brown puts it, the situation is dire.
In this post-recession era, youth unemployment is still disproportionally high, especially in low income areas. As Washington struggles to reduce the nation’s deficit, safety nets for the poor have been significantly reduced or eliminated. This is the time of year when criminal activity and death rates among young people start to rise. We have little choice but [to] create community-based efforts that stem these negatives in low-income areas.
On May 23rd, those involved will be hosting a fundraiser to garner awareness and hopefully monetary donations to get the project off the ground. If kids can learn skills that keep them busy and have long-reaching effects, perhaps the betterment of urban areas nationwide is only a yam away.
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