Seeds of health
The plantings at ten of the school district’s 14 schools (an eleventh is about to come on board) may have been the most effective of the initiatives. The chair of the School and Community Gardens committee is Julie Noble, one of the city’s environmental educators. By contributing a portion of Noble’s salaried time to HKK, the city government has in effect funded the staffing costs of getting the community gardens up and running.
“We’re providing them with the direction and coordination to establish the community gardens,” explained Kevin Gilfeather, superintendent of Kingston’s parks and recreation department. “We’re looking at various partnerships or funding sources to help supplement and reduce the burden on the taxpayer and serving many more people than we did in previous years.”
The city has leveraged federal grant money toward the HKK gardens program, funneling thousand-dollar mini-grants to local nonprofit groups which agree to contribute a portion of their harvest to a soup kitchen or other venue helping people in need.
“We provided the supplies and materials,” said Noble. But she said the $20,000 in annual grants has been reduced to just $4000 this year, so the competition is fierce.
Noble hopes the school and community gardens, once established, will be pretty much sustainable, especially if the seeds are harvested. Some schools incorporate their garden into the curriculum, while at others it’s managed by a club or single class, she said. HKK is suggesting under the district policy’s “nutrition education and promotion” section that school principals establish a garden at their school. A goal for this year is to establish gardens at the remaining schools.
The Kingston YMCA hosts one of the community gardens, Noble said. The garden, which also serves George Washington Elementary School and leases out ten plots to the community, plans to add greenhouse space.
Last month, an HKK partner, the Kingston Land Trust, launched a website, www.kingstoncitygardens.org, with information about the different types of gardens in the city. The website lists resources and provides other helpful information. “It’s a networking resource for the community,” said Noble.
Wilson said the success with the school gardens points to the need for additional strategic partnerships. “There’s no one grant resource that can enable you to make all the changes,” she said. In attempting to lay the groundwork to make HKK sustainable beyond the cessation of the grant next year, Wilson is figuring out how to fit the various organizations together and leverage funding from additional partners. “There needs to be a mission and vision, and then you fit the pieces together,” she said. “We have lots of synergistic visions, but we still don’t have one vision.”