The 2022 growing season is coming to a close and the smiling faces of children pulling up the last beets and harvesting winter squash remind us of how different this year has been from the last.
After two years of curtailed programming during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been wonderful to be fully in-person once again — gardening, cooking and sharing the everyday wonderment of seeing food grow. The timing is critical as the current economic context heightens the importance of our mission.
GKL serves underserved communities that lack access to gardening community spaces, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, and educational programs that address nutrition and sustainability. The rise of basic food costs and the growing risk of a recession make it even more crucial for children and their families to understand the links between food production, nutrition, the environment and their health – and to have access to the healthy foods that are so scarce in the food deserts in which we operate.
Throughout the 2022 growing season, Garden Kitchen Lab was active at four locations: Hunts Point Recreation Center in the Bronx, the Dyckman Farmhouse in Manhattan, St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights, and the Sunset Recreation Center, in Sunset Park.
Thanks to the support of NYC Parks, City Parks Foundation, Katie’s Krops, New York Restoration Project and Con Edison, we received 377 students during the spring and summer in our after-school and summer camp programs, and we’ve expanded our programming to reach an even broader swath of the communities adjacent to our edible gardens.
Our most successful initiatives include:
- Partnering with local community organizations to expand our outreach: at Hunts Point in the Bronx, our garden manager Alejandra Delfín established partnerships with the Graham Windham organization and St. Ignatius School to welcome their students. Alejandra and her volunteers maintain the dozen raised beds, teach the Garden Kitchen Lab curriculum on a weekly basis and donate harvest every week to the local community, from May to November.
- Broadening cultural relevance and celebrating people’s cultures and traditions: At our upper Manhattan site, we partner with the prestigious Dyckman Farmhouse Museum to run their Camp Dyckman summer camp program, and teach children about culture through food. We used West African Yams from Ghana to talk about slavery in the North. We picked dandelion, watercress, and sorrel to prepare a salad and talk about the Lenni Lenape indigenous people who inhabited Manahata or the Island of Many Hills before the Dutch arrived. This year, Fabiola Cáceres, Founder of Garden Kitchen Lab and Director of Education at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, incorporated plantains and cilantro into our recipe library and prepared tostones with Mojo Verde sauce to highlight Dominican culture.
- Expanding the demographics we serve to expose teens to agriculture-related job opportunities: At St. John’s in Crown Heights, Linda Viney, our garden volunteer, invited teens from the Summer Youth Employment Program to help her maintain the garden while learning how to compost, prune and harvest. You can find Linda at the garden every Wednesday, donating the harvest to local mothers.
- Bringing gardening knowledge from our edible gardens into people’s homes: Garden Kitchen Lab also partnered with the Dyckman farmhouse in a new Growing Uptown program, which teaches Upper Manhattan and Bronx families how to start and sustain herb and vegetable gardens in their New York City apartments. We offered six workshops from April to September on how to grow from seeds, transplant, ferment, use herbs to prepare body scrubs, save seeds, dry herbs, and eat garden-to-table. The objective was for urban families to get familiar with the growing season and start bringing Nature into their lives.
- Maintaining our gardens to feed the local community: At Sunset, Beatrice Toscano, Garden Kitchen Lab’s educator, had an excellent growing season! The summer was scorching and there were not enough rains, so our gardens suffered from these temperatures. But Bea managed to have an excellent harvest and kept her garden looking beautiful and bountiful.
As the growing and teaching season winds down, we appreciate how far we have come over the last 9 years when Fabiola created and taught the first Garden Kitchen Lab lesson plan.
To the children and families we serve, we thank you for trusting Garden Kitchen Lab with your dreams and aspirations for a healthy and productive future.
To our community of donors and supporters, we thank you for your cultivation of our shared values.
#St.John’s #St.Johns #McCarren #Sunset #Dyckman #HuntsPoint #Huntspoint