By: Todd McHale
Burlington County Times, Staff Writer
BURLINGTON CITY — After weeks of nurturing crops, the city’s high school students joined state and local dignitaries to celebrate the first harvest of the South Jersey Family Medical Center’s community/learning garden.
Following a dedication ceremony, a dozen students showed off the bounty grown in the back of the center on High Street, and then got to work cultivating, with the help of guests.
The garden is part of the center’s new “Farmacy Program,” designed to educate students about nutrition and the farm-to-table system, as well as supply produce to the community.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Linda Flake, CEO of the medical center. “What it means is that we’re a place that the community is comfortable with working with us and we’re comfortable with our community.”
The program, which combines food justice, youth-driven social entrepreneurship and civic leadership, is one of many that the center offers to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
The center teamed with the high school to put on the program to give students a better understanding of where their food comes from, to discover the importance of adding fresh vegetables to their diet, and to learn about the science and economics behind the food industry.
Junior Kaseem Edwards said he jumped at the chance to participate.
“It’s been a fun experience, not only to be hands-on in the garden, but get along with people that I hadn’t known and make new friends,” Kaseem said.
He was surprised to see how well the parsley, spinach, broccoli, lettuce and other vegetables grew.
Ninth-graders Ansley Morrison and Alexis Goodman enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about gardening and help out the community at the same time.
“We’re always running around somewhere, and this is a good experience to slow down and garden and relax a bit,” Alexis said.
Senior Breyonna Edwards liked the idea of helping people get healthy food and learning different techniques for growing vegetables, no matter the season.
The Horizon Foundation provided a grant to support the program.
Chef Harold Villarosa, of the Insurgo Project in New York City, set up the curriculum and taught the students about gardening over the last few weeks.
Founded in Uptown Manhattan to address local food insecurity, Insurgo is a community collective committed to nurturing the farm-to-table movement in low-income neighborhoods nationwide.
In December, Villarosa will return to join with the students to cook a lunch that will include some of the vegetables grown in the garden.