Youth Grow Fresh Food with Edible Avalon's Summer Youth Program

June 24, 2013

In southeastern Michigan, a dedicated non-profit organization is growing and delivering fresh produce to low-income residents through a youth program. “Edible Avalon” is an organic community garden and education program in association with Avalon Housing, the largest provider of permanent, supportive affordable housing for extremely low-income residents in Washtenaw County, MI.  

“Most Avalon Housing residents rely on food banks to complete their diets,” said Kristin Kaul, program coordinator for Edible Avalon. “Edible Avalon gives students the knowledge to grow their own nutritious food, and provides a community-generated source of sustenance that fosters health consciousness and independence while decreasing family dependence on food assistance.”

In 2010, Kaul applied for an NCR-SARE Youth Educator grant to support the Edible Avalon Summer Youth Program, and was awarded $1,807 to conduct summer youth programming focusing on local food and sustainable agriculture. In 2010, Avalon offered their Summer Youth Program to K-12 student tenants. More than 20 youth participated.

“Our hope was that students would realize the importance of living soil and of using sustainable methods – working with nature, rather than against it,” said Emily Canosa, youth education coordinator at Edible Avalon. “We also hope they got a glimpse into the burgeoning world of sustainable urban agriculture and the ways in which even disenfranchised communities have used community and urban gardening to empower themselves and build community.”

The youth involved in Edible Avalon’s Summer Youth Program planned gardens, learned about sustainable growing practices, sowed seeds, planted transplants, and maintained the gardens over the summer. They harvested produce and learned how to prepare and cook it.  Much of the produce was incorporated directly into the Edible Avalon’s daily meal program. Dietetic interns held weekly cooking classes and provided nutrition counseling and education.

High school youth involved with Edible Avalon’s Summer Youth Program were able to seek high school class credit through Ann Arbor Community High School’s Community Resource Program, which allows students to study with an outside expert for elective credit. Those teens were required to complete a total of 90 hours of work with the program. They had additional mentoring opportunities with other youth, additional community service work, volunteer hours at local farms and ag organizations, and field trips designed to show youth the depth and breadth of the area’s local food economy.

“Many of Avalon’s families have experienced homelessness and/or frequent relocation. Many of the children are behind academically, and have not had positive messages about themselves from school or society,” said Kaul. “For both young and older youth, our program aims to take them out of this limiting mental environment and expose them to new ways of thinking about themselves and the world around them; to people who are self-directed and self-reliant, and who feel a deep sense of responsibility for the

Earth, and to the joy and satisfaction that can be found in the natural world and in simple, natural tasks like growing one’s own food and caring for one’s local environment.”

Want more information? See the related SARE grant:

Topics: Community Development, Local and Regional Food Systems, Quality of Life, Urban Agriculture
Related Locations: North Central