(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2013)
With the smell of freshly turned dirt in the air the youth behind South Boston Grows celebrated the end of the season with a Garden Party at the program’s Devine Way plot Tuesday afternoon.
Founded in 2009 by Phoebe Flemming, a dietician at the South Boston Community Health Center, the program employs area youth who spend the summer planting and harvesting vegetables that are then distributed to local residents.
Close to 10 youth participated in this year’s program, harvesting about 25-pounds of vegetables a week.
Earning $8 an hour, the youth are in charge of making sure the plants are healthy and the people getting them know how to cook them. Also, as part of the program, the youth take field trips to nearby farms to see how food is produced on a large scale.
“We’re trying to teach kids how to grow food in small spaces ,” explained Flemming. “We’re finding that the kids are more likely to increase their fruit and vegetable intake when they participate in a program like this.”
Tackling both obesity in children and the disconnect between consumers and their food, Flemming said the program gets the youth thinking about what they eat, which hopefully rubs off on family and friends.
“We started this to build access to healthy food,” said Flemming. “We want to get people connected to what they eat.”
On Tuesday as some of the youth tended to the garden, plucking chard and pulling out beets, others sampled the fruits of their labor.
“When I grow something I automatically want to try it,” explained Brooke Steadman, a 16-year-old South Boston resident.
“I think before this I maybe grew a flower. Now when I walk into the supermarket I know what everything is and how to cook and grow them,” Steadman added.
Others saw the program as a good way to spend the summer and earn a little money for school.
“I thought it was an interesting program to take on,” said Coleman Flaherty, a 16-year-old South Boston resident. “Having a garden in South Boston is not something you see every day.”
“Through the program I learned a lot. At some jobs you pick things up here and there, but here I got paid and learned about how to garden and how to eat healthy,” Flaherty added.
Jonathan Arico, a 19-year-old South Boston resident and youth supervisor for the program, said in addition to getting area youth thinking healthy, it also gives them something constructive to do over the summer.
“It’s a really great program because it keeps them out of trouble and they actually learn,” said Arico. “There aren’t a lot of outlets for kids these days.”
Affordability is also another important aspect of the program said Arico, with the two organization’s gardens located near affordable housing developments on D Street and Devine Way.
“Honestly everyone knows where the healthy food is, but how do you get it?” said Arico. “Not everybody in this economy can afford to go to Foodies.”
Food harvested through the program is distributed weekly to area residents and to the South Boston Community Healthy Center's food pantry.
Although the garden shuts down for the winter, Flemming said the program will be back next year and so will a new crop of South Boston youth who will tend to its plots.