Last July we wrote about the need to save the greenhouse at Schenectady’s Central Park, which was in trouble because two of its main sources of operating and maintenance funds, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the county Soil and Water Conservation District, had lost that funding themselves.
At the time, three of the groups involved with the greenhouse, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Schenectady ARC and Roots & Wisdom, were talking about working together to find new uses and funding sources. And they have managed to do just that, with an exciting new program in which they’ll use the greenhouse to grow vegetables for free distribution to low-income people who either have or are at risk of cardiovascular disease.
The groups will team up with doctors at Ellis Hospital, who will “prescribe” (actually write a prescription for) fresh vegetables to their patients. Participating individuals and families will get a voucher redeemable at an urban farm stand every two weeks from late June to October, as well as instruction in how to prepare the produce, which will include tomatoes, beans, peppers, broccoli and assorted greens.
Funding will come via a $189,500 grant from AstraZeneca Health Care Foundation, a national nonprofit. The money will go for outreach, distribution, operating costs at the greenhouse, and hiring a gardener who will grow the vegetables with the help of teenagers from Roots & Wisdom, which teaches its participants about sustainable agriculture, hunger and nutrition.
The collaborative effort by the local groups is what won them the grant, and it probably wouldn’t have been possible without the greenhouse. They now want to make the program year-round and extend it to other health agencies, such as HMOs, an excellent idea.
There are other things the greenhouse could be used for — e.g. environmental education and demonstration projects, and teaching urban residents how to grow their own food in gardens. It’s a great resource that needs to be preserved and fully taken advantage of.