Press release from the City:
Mayor Henry, Parks Announce Food for the Fort Community Gardening Project
Mayor Tom Henry this morning announced the kick-off of Food for the Fort, a sustainable community agriculture project that will provide fresh produce for three different groups this year and promises to be a catalyst for building a more sustainable community food project in subsequent growing seasons. Park Board Commissioner Cheri Becker, Parks and Recreation Director Al Moll, representatives from St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and Williams Woodland Park Neighborhood Association, and Community Harvest Food Bank all joined the Mayor at the Resource Center for Refugees to announce the project.
Food for the Fort brings a broad and diverse group of youth, individuals and organizations together to build and sustain a community food system that provides fresh and healthy food to our community’s hungry and underserved populations. This season’s plans for the Food for the Fort gardens are focused on three projects.
The initial Food for the Fort project is likened to a three legged stool. One garden will be located at the Refugee Center to serve Fort Wayne’s growing Burmese population, and will provide food and agricultural training to resettled individuals, many of whom were farmers in Burma. The garden will help these new residents learn about growing techniques in their new homeland and create the potential for self-sufficiency by growing produce for resale. The Williams Woodland Park neighborhood will start a garden on a vacant neighborhood lot and will supply fresh produce to Williams Woodland residents. With an already established garden at Salomon Farm Park on Dupont Road, the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department will expand the existing garden to grow tomatoes, beans, and peppers for Community Harvest Food Bank.
“The economic challenges too many of our families are facing are affecting their food choices. They may feel like fresh fruits and vegetables are just out of their reach,” said Mayor Henry. “But this program can become a catalyst for more sustainable, locally produced food. It will give neighbors an opportunity to come together and see the fruits of their labor, literally!”
The three sites announced today are considered the test sites for 2009, with hopes of expanding the program each year. There are many vacant lots in the City which can be used for future gardens. Mayor Henry called for volunteers, neighborhood associations, and other community serving organizations to tap into Fort Wayne’s can-do spirit and show their support and commitment to this project.
“This idea was born out of the realization that too many people in our community are hungry and that there are too many vacant, and overgrown lots in our community that contribute to neighborhood decline,” said Becker, who first presented the idea to Parks Director Al Moll in January of this year. “I wanted to create an opportunity to bring a diverse group of people together to work toward a common goal. This project will give youth the experience of working with people from differing cultures, backgrounds, ages and genders to learn together, test themselves physically, emotionally and mentally, to make new friends, and possibly discover and develop new skills and interests.”
To date the project has gained the support of the City of Fort Wayne, the Purdue Extension Office, the Master Gardner’s, Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, Community Harvest Food Bank, Do it Best Corporation, Midwest Gloves & Gear, and Home Depot. As Food for the Fort gains greater community support, the grassroots group hopes to align with the Northeast Indiana Green Build Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting green and sustainable living through four guiding principles: education, collaboration, advocacy and engagement.