I had the privilege of attending the Edible Schoolyard Rooftop Garden and Greenhouse Ribbon Cutting Ceremony today. The rooftop facility offers opportunities for growing, cooking and eating fresh grown produce to children enrolled in PS/MS 7 and Global Tech Prep, two schools co-located at 120th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues in East Harlem. Attending the ribbon cutting ceremony was Melissa Mark-Viverito, the East Harlem District Council Member and Speaker of the City Council, which helped to fund the project; Matthew Washington, the Deputy Manhattan Borough President and Dr. Harvey and Mr Baiz, principals respectively of PS/MS 7 and Global Tech Prep. Nashanti Robinson, an eighth grader at Global Tech, told the assembled crowd that participating in the gardening program had changed her opinion about eating vegetables and introduced her to new foods and activities. You can read more about the rooftop garden here.
Also attending the event was Annette Slonim, Program Manager of the East Harlem Edible Schoolyard. Annette was an East Harlem Food Policy Fellow with our group in 2015 and a participant in the East Harlem Research Action Workshop on Food Environments in East Harlem, a course that Jan Poppendieck and I taught at the CUNY School of Public Health. Annette helped our class to understand the value of school yard gardens and also learned about other parts of East Harlem’s food system. It was exciting to see the progress her program has made in the last two years.
The event also made me think again about our Institute’s session on urban agriculture in which Nevin Cohen and Kristin Reynolds (authors of Beyond the Kale) and several New York City urban farmers and gardeners analyzed the class, race and power dynamics within this movement. From schoolyard rooftops in East Harlem to farms in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn, community gardening and urban agriculture are creating new opportunities to engage people in thinking about food, health and social justice. Can we tap this energy and passion to revitalize how this city thinks about its public places?