Using the Growboxx® for food production for the youth in Coalfield Communities

Press message 19-09-2018

September 2018 – EPCAMR received a $50.000, two-year grand from Inquiring Systems, Inc. This money will help to start a project with the biodegradable Growboxx® plant cocoon. With the grand, boxes will be donated to local children, along with seeds, seedlings, soil amendments, and other necessary items to grow their own food.

Denise Hernandez, Urban Outreach Specialist at EPCAMR, will be one of the staff to facilitate the dispersal of the Growboxxes to youth in the targeted coalfield communities. “We’re excited about engaging the community and helping youth appreciate where food comes from,” Hernandez remarked.

Teaching children with the Growboxx® plant cocoon

The project will also include an educational aspect where children are taught about the importance of growing their own fruits and vegetables along with coal mining history of the Wyoming Valley and even nutrition. Laura Rinehimer, Watershed Outreach Education Specialist at EPCAMR, explained, “This project provides an opportunity for youth to learn about plants first-hand through engaging in the process of growing vegetables from seed to table.”

Rinehimer is responsible for creating a multidisciplinary, standards aligned curriculum for the project that will be provided to area teachers in the targeted school districts they would like to work with in the Wyoming Valley.  In addition to the Growboxxes and gardening supplies, several iPads will also be distributed to local schools so that they can share their experiences with children around the world through a concurrent project taking place in Ethiopia. Claudia Meglin is managing the project for Inquiring Systems, Inc. “We are looking forward to deepening our collaboration with EPCAMR to empower communities that have suffered under the demise of capitalistic extraction”.  Additionally, a documentary will be filmed to monitor the growth of the project, run by videographer John Welsh.

Growing healthy food in a sustainable way

The mission of the grant is to help youth in the coal region reclaim their backyards. This region was heavily extracted for Anthracite coal for nearly 200 years. Many of the miners lived in company houses and already spent the majority of their earned income at the company store through the use of scrips. In order to become more self-sustaining people grew their own foods in patchwork gardens. In doing so, they reclaimed their freedom from the mining companies. “While EPCAMR normally focuses on reclaiming land and polluted mine water, this project will allow us to reclaim the backyards of residents located in previously mining impacted areas and provide families with an option to garden together and grow some healthy food options much like the mining families of the past,” said Executive Director at EPCAMR, Bobby Hughes.

Today, children in the region face a different type of oppression. 58% of individuals lie below the poverty level. For families with no transportation, often times, the easiest and cheapest food options are fast food or processed food options from local convenient stores. The focus area for the project can be seen as a food desert in many ways and it is difficult for people without vehicles to make trips to grocery stores to obtain nutritious, fresh fruits and vegetables. By teaching kids to grow their own food, it will help reclaim the freedom to eat healthy and make informed nutrition choices.

The involved parties

EPCAMR plans to partner with local Luzerne County children in the 4th grade class in the following schools and organizations: The Graham Academy, Wilkes-Barre Area, Nanticoke Area and Hanover Area. Mt. Zion Baptists Church youth and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church youth from the Greater Wilkes-Barre Area will also be involved. Staff will be reaching out to the School Districts and the Churches shortly. EPCAMR is patiently awaiting the arrival of 200 Growboxxes. If it is successful with the classrooms that we will be looking to work with, we will be making an appeal to Groasis to provide us with additional Growboxxes to get them to each of the other 4th grade classes in each of the school districts to reach even more youth and families in the Wyoming Valley. A pilot program will start in the fall with the full-blown program commencing in the spring. 

To read the original press release of EPCAMR, please click here.