GARDENEERS: ENSURING THE SUCCESS OF CHICAGO SCHOOL GARDENS
Gardeneers was created in 2014 to provide more equitable access for healthy food and food education for Chicago students in food desert communities. Dedicated Garden Educators work directly with students in partner school gardens on a weekly basis. Gardeneers cultivates customized school garden programs to ensure each space, and the students and communities who care for it, connect with healthy food and grow to their full potential. They are the only Chicago-based nonprofit providing full-service, customized school garden programs with on-going support. When schools lack the time and resources to sustain a garden program, Gardeneers ensures their success! Unilever is proud to have supported Gardeneers through a grant for Oglesby Elementary in 2018, and the Homan Rails Farm in 2019.
Gardeneers has partnered with Oglesby Elementary since 2014. Oglesby Elementary is in the Auburn Gresham community on the southside of Chicago. 98.3% of students at Oglesby Elementary come from low income households. From 2014-2017, Gardeneers partnered with 3 classrooms at Oglesby and served nearly 100 students each week in direct service school garden programs. In 2018, due to the partnership with Unilever, they were able to more than double the amount of students in our garden program at Oglesby, and served 8 classes and nearly 250 students each week.
Gardeneers were also able to invest in the infrastructure of the school garden and build additional raised beds to grow more produce in the gardens – nearly 400 pounds of produce in 2018! Gardeneers were also able to host community days for parents and neighbors of Oglesby Elementary, and host farm stands where community members were able to access free produce grown in the school garden to eat with their families.
In 2019, a second grant from Unilever funded a farm stand and community workshop program at the Homan Rails Farm in the North Lawndale community. The Homan Rails Farm is Gardeneer’s largest farm site, with 5 hoop houses and 1.5 acres of urban growing space. Teens from DRW College Prep sell and donate produce to community members they have grown at the Homan Rails Farm. Funds from Unilever ensure that a student run farm stand can happen each week, to increase community access to fresh healthy food and continue teaching students entrepreneurial skills through growing and selling fresh produce.