Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dreams with the world. On MLK Day this January, nearly 100 people gathered at the Dillard Academy Charter School/CASTLES 21 CLCC garden to honor Dr. King’s memory with a day of service. In the midst of a cold winter, the volunteers enjoyed an unusually sunshiny day and in just a few hours transformed the garden. By lunchtime, everyone was inside sharing a meal of sweet potatoes and collard greens. Meanwhile, outside, the garden was ready for spring planting, with fresh soil in the beds, mulch along the pathways, a new message board, beautiful signs, a handwashing station, and many seeds planted in pots to provide the first food of the year.
Just three years ago, FoodCorps was founded with the dream of using food to help raise a generation of healthy children. After our day of service, this dream has been coming true in the Dillard Academy garden. During the first week of May, Dillard Academy students reaped the benefits of their school garden in several ways. In Healthy Living class, students learned about roots and leaves, sampling radishes, lettuce, kale, and spinach grown footsteps from their classroom. Preparing to record data on taste for lettuce, one student said, “I’m not going to write good. How do you spell ‘fabulous’?” A few classes headed to the garden to weed their salad gardens, while others were planting summer vegetables. After school in the garden club, kids measured and documented the growth of their own personal seedlings.
The garden excitement culminated in an after-school Wellness Fair. Students participated in many different activities highlighting nutrition and physical activity. The kids all got a chance to head outside, where they explored the garden on a scavenger hunt, picked strawberries, stretched out in a garden yoga session, and completed an exercise circuit. Afterwards, they sipped on lemonade flavored by mint leaves from the school garden. One student reflected on his favorite part of the afternoon. “The strawberries!”
Thanks to the help of our many community volunteers, and the participation of teachers and staff at Dillard Academy, the students here are enjoying their school garden and, following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, the kids are dreaming. Dreaming of all the fruits and vegetables they’ll be harvesting this spring and summer.