Urban GEMS (Gardening Entrepreneurs Motivating Sustainability), uses gardening to engage at-risk youth in Franklin and Mahoning Counties, where communities face high rates of poverty, health issues, unemployment, and food insecurity. The program receives support from NIFA’s Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) grant program.
Urban GEMS increases participants’ fresh fruit and vegetable consumption and improves their knowledge of healthy eating, all while learning how to use different systems to grow and harvest crops. Students grow leafy greens on aeroponic towers (growing plants in an air or mist environment without use of soil), learn how to prepare and cook their harvests, teach their peers and families about healthy eating, and donate produce to the homeless. So far, there are tower gardens in nine locations. The research team has plans to create a sustainable business growing food in food deserts with as many as 90 gardens in the next five years. Beyond the gardening benefits, Urban GEMS teaches teamwork, community engagement, and education.
"A lot of students are still wrapping their minds around the fact that Ohio State University and people who have resources are willing to invest in them,” said Dr. Deanna Wilkinson, researcher at Ohio State University. “They are just not used to that. What I want them to know is that they deserve all of the same opportunities as kids who live in communities with more resources.”
Read about Urban GEMS.
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