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Seeds of change | Local organizations team-up to bring new life to school gardens

Captain Planet Foundation partners with Food Well Alliance revive 102+ learning gardens across metro Atlanta.

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — As our ‘new normal’ stretches towards its fourth month, the need for consistent food access of local families around the metro Atlanta area persists.

While public schools have essentially been ‘out of session’ as far as the buildings are concerned since March, some local non-profits felt that it was time to take certain food access strategies back to class.

Project Learning Garden is the initiative of Captain Planet Foundation (CPF), a local public charity and grant-making foundation originally created by Atlanta’s own media mogul himself, Ted Turner back in 1991.

Based on the popular, critically-acclaimed 90’s animated series, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, the foundation parted ways with the media conglomerate in 2002 to become a 501(c)3 under the stated mission to engage and empower young people to be problem-solvers for the planet.

Credit: Ashley Rouse is the Development Manager for Captain Planet Foundation

Due to the impact that COVID has had on the healthy food access around the city, Captain Planet Foundation decided to partner up with Food Well Alliance to revive a couple of their innovative programs: a public school community garden program called Project Giving Gardens and the Project Learning Garden, a learning laboratory focused on healthy food access. 

Due to statewide school closures not only are these school gardens inactive, but approximately 20,000 square feet of ‘farmable’ land has also been sitting idle. The geographical footprint of the initiative roughly encompasses schools in Atlanta Public Schools (APS), South Fulton, and other districts with schools located in South Fulton, APS, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, and Henry counties.

With the Project Giving Gardens program reinstated, over 100 community gardens will be prepared to become fully functioning mini-gardens under the direct supervision of some of the area’s most renowned urban farmers. Ten farmers to date, all recruited through CPF’s partnership with Food Well Alliance.

My East Point News spoke with one of the recruited farmers, Lelo Jones of Outdoor Fresh Farm, at Sandtown Middle School in South Fulton. The Atlanta native and full-time agriculturist had this to share, 

“I myself have been educating and teaching about agriculture throughout the city of Atlanta for about five years now," he said. "So, when the kids come back this year, there will be a lot of stuff they’ve never seen before because a lot of these kids don't even know how their food is grown.”

Jones along with the remaining nine farmers have divvied up the 100+ schools across the metro area. They are contracted throughout the summer to help maintain the gardens and the crops for community donations.

Credit: Fred Conrad is the Community Gardens Project, Atlanta Community Food Bank

Project Giving Gardens is not only bringing these school gardens back to life, it will provide thousands of pounds of food for the schools' students and their families when the summer vegetables are harvested.

In order to help raise funds for the programs, CPF will be hosting a virtual event later this week on July, 9. The event will be live-streamed from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m and will offer its guests food, music, and cocktails.

Tickets are available for pre-purchase but time is running out. All monies raised during the fundraiser will be allocated towards students and families hardest hit by the pandemic.

For more information Captain Planet Foundation’s programs, visit their website.

For more info about the Sip & Dine virtual fundraiser event, click here.

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