Capital University students and staff helped Lincoln Park Elementary School start a community garden benefiting the local community at a kickoff event on Wednesday, May 9.
Capital is partnering with Columbus City Schools, Barack Community Recreation Center, Whole Foods Market and Franklin Park Conservatory to support a community garden, cooking and nutrition program benefiting the Lincoln Park community.
More than 100 children in grades first through fifth helped dig, weed, spread mulch and plant seeds and vegetable plants in a circular maze-like garden designed by the master gardener at Franklin Park Conservatory, which donated his time and talent.
“I found a worm,” a fourth-grader proudly proclaimed while digging a hole in the cucumber patch. “I’m going to put him in my pocket.”
The community garden is an offshoot of Capital University President Denvy A. Bowman’s Empathy Experiment, an intense, eight-week social change initiative that pairs a select group of students with community partners who immerse students in a relevant social issue to explore whether empathy can be taught and what are the effects. This year’s experiment focused on nutrition in America. Capital partnered with Columbus City Schools, Columbus Public Health and Whole Foods Market to guide students through a firsthand study of how nutrition impacts their organizations.
Seed money for the garden was provided to Columbus City Schools and the community center through two $1,000 mini grants from Molina Healthcare, which provides quality healthcare for financially vulnerable individuals and families who receive their care through Medicaid, Medicare and other government funded programs in 16 states. Molina serves more than 250,000 Medicaid members in Ohio. The mini-grants help start health, nutrition and education programs, Jan Reed, director of community outreach for Molina Healthcare of Ohio explained.
“We’ve done a lot of work with schools with a focus on sustainable food sources, nutrition education, and diabetes awareness and management,” Reed said.
Broccoli, sunflowers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, pumpkins, pole beans, peppers, peas, greens cabbage, carrots, beets peppers, geraniums, dahlias and more will produce food all the way through November for families in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Volunteers from Capital University, the Freedom School program at the community center, Nationwide, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Molina will continue caring for the garden through late fall. Produce will be harvested as needed and given to the community. Whole Foods Market will offer free cooking and nutrition classes in June, July and August to community members who sign up.