Since 1973, the Norris Square Neighborhood Project has provided a safe space for local residents and their children to develop sustainable-agriculture skills in the big city. On Tuesday, the organization got $20,000 richer.
The endowment is part of the 2020 Pure Growth Project, an initiative launched by Pure Farmland, a maker of plant-based protein products like meatballs and burger patties, earlier this year to ensure community gardens and farms continue to thrive, and to help increase the availability of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables nationwide.
“We knew it was going to be competitive,” said NSNP’s executive director, Teresa Elliott. “We were absolutely thrilled to find out we won the grant.”
Elliott’s organization was one of 167 applicants from community gardens and farms across 31 states to receive part of the $100,000 pot. Grants ranged from $1,000 to $20,000.
NSNP’s main community garden at 2248 Palethorp St., named Las Parcelas, currently has 23 raised beds for residents to plant fruits and vegetables. With the award money, they plan on building at least five new raised beds so more residents will have the opportunity to grow their own food, too.
“We’ve had a waitlist for at least three years,” said Elliott. “And the list has gotten longer because of COVID. People want to find ways to be outside more often.“
Elliott also said that some money would be used to improve the garden’s compost system and make it more accessible.
NSNP uses its garden for an afterschool program that’s typically targeted toward high school students, though it’s been expanded to seventh- and eighth-graders during this year due to the pandemic. The afterschool program teaches students about sustainable agriculture and food systems “and how not everybody has access to fresh foods,” Elliott said.
Elliott said that outdoor activities like gardening are very important for social and emotional reasons.
“The importance of being outdoors and working in gardens is so important for your health and wellbeing,” she said. “I am not a gardener by training and during this lockdown it’s done me a world of good.”
Many children learn things about fruits and vegetables that they probably wouldn’t have ever known otherwise.
“Some had no idea that tomatoes grow on vines,” said Elliott. “It’s really important for youth to understand where food comes from.”
NSNP inherited the gardens from a group of women who created them out of vacant lots in the ‘80s. A mural in the vicinity, Elliott said, is dedicated to those women.
“Pure Farmland is humbled to bring this opportunity to Norris Square Neighborhood Project, so they can continue to be a pillar of inspiration and strength to their community,” said Erin Thacker, brand manager for Pure Farmland. “Seeing the impact the grant will make for local residents and feeling the excitement around the new developments only builds our passion to give back to deserving organizations like this around the country through the Pure Growth Project.”
Elliott said that NSNP is “excited to partner with Pure Farmland.”
“We work to ensure that more people in the community can grow foods that make them feel good – nutritious, fresh fruits and vegetables, including many varieties traditional to Puerto Rican foodways, as our neighborhood is rooted in this heritage,” she added. “We look forward to bringing together young and old to garden together, helping to keep our neighborhood strong.”