On Tuesday, The Green Room highlighted Growing Power, an inspirational national nonprofit that is training others in sustainable farming in both urban and rural areas.
Today, we highlight one of its training centers: Our School at Blair Grocery, with an excerpt from the school’s outstanding blog.
As a Growing Power Regional Training Center, part of our work is providing training in urban micro farming techniques pioneered by Growing Power.
But our story really began with the teenagers in our high school and neighborhood afterschool program. We operate an experiential curriculum that incorporates sustainability thinking and GED-prep into the work of ending hunger and building a profitable community food enterprise and a regional food economy to drive sustainable community development in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
As educators and social entrepreneurs, we are guided by the principles of Backwards Design, the concept that, to be successful in designing a unit or class, planning a project, or implementing large scale social and cultural change, the educator/ entrepreneur must begin with the end point – the “enduring understanding” – in mind. To reach that enduring understanding, we build what we call Scaffolding – strategy, steps, and benchmarks guided by an essential question.
Our current work is being guided by the essential question, “To what extent are we empowering at-risk youth to take leadership in making New Orleans, Louisiana, the City that Ended Hunger?”
This essential question assumes two important enduring understandings:
- That ending hunger in New Orleans is both achievable and practical, and
- That the cross-sector, cross-disciplinary work required to end hunger can create significant learning and employment opportunities for people (particularly young people) living in resource-deprived situations.
Ending hunger has been done before. In “The City that Ended Hunger,” Frances Moore Lappé describes the practical innovations the city of Belo Horizonte successfully implemented to assure everyone the right to food. These innovations include fixing the price of fresh food items, linking low-resource farmers directly to low-income consumers, establishing “People’s Restaurants,” and introducing a participatory budgeting process.
What is most interesting about Belo Horizonte’s innovations is that they transformed relationships, creating a “new social mentality” that everyone benefits when everyone can access good food. Farmers’ incomes increased, infant mortality rates dropped, the city combated its image as incompetent, and everyone’s bellies stayed full of healthy, local food. These innovations – ending hunger through mechanisms for individuals to participate in their democracy – take up less than 2% of the city’s annual budget.
Like Belo Horizonte, we understand that ending hunger can be done through practical means, innovations that create significant opportunities for disempowered, resource-deprived people to participate in their democracy.
Our mission is to create a resource-rich safe space for youth empowerment and sustainable community development.