The Baldwin Park Community Garden sits in the shadow of the San Bernardino Freeway in Eastern Los Angeles County. As the cars rush by, an effective and innovative community garden grows. I was delighted to be a guest of students and their teachers recently. I was impressed with the public-private partnership which made this garden possible to benefit the community and local children.
The garden, which is approximately a quarter acre in size, has both school and community plots. The land and financial support are provided by Kaiser Permanente. The City of Baldwin Park helps to maintain the garden. The Baldwin Park Unified School District uses the garden to engage fourth graders from five classrooms at two elementary schools in hands-on nutrition education through a project called “The Moveable Feast”. The Moveable Feast conducts in-garden nutrition lessons, each of which includes an easy, healthy recipe using garden produce.
Each month’s nutrition lesson ties into cultural and community awareness. For example, as the recession has deepened, Moveable Feast Director Linda Hahn wanted lessons to tie in with the growing problem of hunger in the community. In April each student prepared two “Rainbow Pita Pocket Sandwiches”, one for them, and one for a person in need, and worked with the local food bank to distribute the extra sandwiches.
The garden activities have had a measurable impact on the kids. A recent survey of the students suggested that 87% eat more fruits and vegetables after having participated in the garden.
In my view, the Baldwin Park garden has three key ingredients that help to ensure and sustain its success:
1. Institutional support. Three entities, Kaiser Permanente, the City of Baldwin Park, and the Baldwin Park Unified School District are deeply invested in this project, and support it either financially or through significant in-kind contributions.
2. Meaningful youth involvement. Teachers and the school district, via the Moveable Feast, engage children in effective, measurable garden-based learning that’s tailored to the needs of the community.
3. Promotion of the project to the community and key decision makers. The Moveable Feast has a “Guest Chef” program that brings in local leaders to see and participate in the garden. Student essay competitions, a garden cookbook and thank-you celebrations also help to promote and further engage the community in this endeavor.
For the kids, its success is very simple. As one student stated, “The garden is the best place I have gone since I entered fourth grade. It is the best garden in the world”.