Seeds Of Knowledge Initiatives
Highland Park Community Nursery School and Day Care Center Garden
In March of 2015, Namrita approached Highland Park Community Nursery School and Day Care Center (“Community”) with an idea to integrate gardening into their curriculum. “Community” is a public, nonprofit organization that serves 100 students from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds.
Later that year, Namrita installed an outdoor garden consisting of four raised beds, one digging box, and garden tools. This collaboration aims to educate students at the nursery school about the importance of nutrition, to address the school community’s nutritional needs throughout the year, and to provide the children with a gardening enrichment opportunity.
In order to provide children with a year-round gardening experience that does not stop during Chicago’s brutal winters and ensure a continuous supply of fresh produce for their lunches prepared on site, Namrita installed hydroponic garden towers in each of the five classrooms at “Community” in January 2016. Children are far more likely to eat the food in front of them if they are the ones growing it.
Namrita visits “Community” weekly to work with students on activities related to gardening and nutrition. Together, they plant seeds in pots, transplant them into the garden, learn about different food groups and appropriate serving sizes for a balanced diet, and play games that she creates that are focused on nutrition education such as fruit and vegetable bingo. She also recently installed a composter and taught students about composting through self-created visuals and a puppet show.
Feed The Meters, Feed Your Neighbors
To combat food insecurity, Namrita presented her “Feed The Meters, Feed Your Neighbors” initiative to the city council in September 2015 and received immediate approval. She then collaborated with local artist, Heather Lowery, who transformed old parking meter into art pieces. In November 2015, she installed two refurbished parking meters in downtown Highland Park that now serve as donation stations. One meter is bright orange and shaped like a carrot, and the other is green with fruits and vegetables painted on it. In October 2016, she installed a third meter, shaped like a giant green pea pod, at a local grocery store. To date, the change collected in the meters have enabled Namrita to purchase 2,000+ pounds of fresh produce for the Moraine Township Food Pantry, which serves 700 families. The meters not only raise money for the food pantry, but they also raise awareness through their eye-catching designs about the food insecurity in the Moraine Township.
Moraine Township Food Pantry Garden
During the summers of 2015 and 2016, the Park District loaned Namrita a plot at the Moraine Township Food Pantry community garden. All produce harvested at the plot was donated to the pantry to help people in Highland Park gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables. With the help of volunteers, Namrita watered, weeded, and harvested throughout the growing seasons and donated 175 pounds of produce to the food pantry.
Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA)
Namrita partnered with Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA), an organization that provides year round recreational programs and services for individuals with special needs. She worked with their six-week children’s day camp, Camp Sunburst, during the summer of 2015 and held different activities related to healthy eating and gardening on a weekly basis. Gardening activities helped to enhance participants’ motor skills. Campers visited the Seeds of Knowledge plot at the community garden and helped to maintain the plot, which showed participants a visual representation of the seed-to-harvest process. Additionally, campers planted assorted vegetables seeds in Jiffy pots, learned what plants need to grow, and created plant markers. Another activity included making portion plates that reminded campers of our five food groups and how many servings of each we should eat in our meals.