For Lowell schoolchildren, Mill City Grows makes sure that food is more than just lunch, it’s part of the curriculum, helping students develop positive eating habits early on, all while having fun and learning. Through the support of Project Bread, a chef visits schools around the district offering cooking demonstrations, and a food corps member spends time in health classes talking about nutrition, and science classes teaching about the life cycle of plant growth and what that means for food production. Food is even part of the math curriculum, as students convert measurements in recipes.
During the summer months a school garden provided produce for a free afternoon farmers market at two schools in the district, where parents could take home food their children helped to grow and at the same time see a demonstration from a chef about how to use the food being offered.
Project Bread also supports Mill City Grows’ Food Access Programs, which offer a multifaceted approach to increasing low-income and recent immigrants’ self-sufficiency and access to fresh, local, and organically grown food. In 2014, the program’s three community gardens had 100 garden plots, with over 400 individuals growing and eating almost 10,000 pounds of fresh produce, and supplying a mobile farmers market that travels to healthcare facilities, senior housing, low-income housing, and neighborhoods lacking full service grocery stores to bring fresh local produce directly to residents that need it most.
“Mill City Grows’ approach is unique in that we are providing low-income Lowell residents with the tools and opportunities to become independently food secure,” says Francey Slater, Co-Director of Mill City Grows. “We use urban food production as a tool to create healthier communities and individuals.”