With the help of West Elmwood Housing, Accessing Home AmeriCorps Members celebrated Earth Day 2022 in fine fashion this year.
NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley’s Accessing Home program had the pleasure of participating in Sankofa Garden Earth Day cleanups hosted by West Elmwood Housing.
The West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) Sankofa Initiative works to address modern health, financial and community challenges through increased access to the healthy foods that are traditional to the West End’s ethnically diverse community. Celebrated over two days and drawing over 25 volunteers, West Elmwood Housing’s Earth Day event aimed to ready community gardens for the 2022 farmers market season.
“The clean-ups went great!” said NWBRV’s Accessing Home Program Manager Tyler Martin. “We had great weather and wonderful community involvement.”
Utilizing his numerous contacts and relationships with area partners in the non-profit Providence realm, enabled innovative and hardworking Sankofa Market Manager and current interim Sankofa Manager Julius Searight to find and reclaim these valuable garden spaces in tandem with Earth Day.
“I can’t stress the importance of community based volunteer events enough,” said Accessing Home member Matthew Parent. “The Sankofa staff currently consists of two people serving a group of mostly retirement age farmers and gardeners. So having extra help like we received from the Accessing Home AmeriCorps program goes a long way in reclaiming vacant land and combating the danger and liability of blighted areas. It would have taken weeks, chipping away little by little, without their help.”
The Sankofa Community Garden, a reclaimed area which includes 30,000 square feet of gardens throughout Providence’s West End, provides space for low-income Providence residents to grow food. Additionally, the gardens will soon host an educational partnership between Nowell Leadership Academy and Dorcas International.
“Upping the available farming space to Sankofa members will help increase total yield for vendors at the farmers market,” Matt said. “This will allow us to keep more money circulating in the community for a longer amount of time while also providing more access to fresh, organic, and culturally relevant produce to our mostly immigrant and refugee population in the West Elmwood neighborhood of Providence.”
The level of hunger and food insecurity in Rhode Island today is the highest in New England. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 14% of Rhode Islanders, one in seven Rhode Island households, are experiencing food insecurity and are unable to meet their basic food needs. 19,400 households report the most severe conditions associated with hunger. Food insecurity is an even greater problem in the West End as evidenced by its much lower median household income. Nearly 33% of West End residents participate in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programming. The community gardens and open green spaces cleaned up this Earth Day are a key component in enabling Sankofa to realize the overall mission and goal of West Elmwood Housing, by focusing on food security and urban farming, while providing culturally relevant food to the immigrant and refugee population in the West Elmwood neighborhood .
“It’s really incredible to see the opportunities that these gardens have created for people in Providence,” said NWBRV Director of Resource Development and Communications, Meg Rego. “I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that being able to grow your own food, and in turn take ownership over your own income and health, has had on people. It’s amazing.”
The Accessing Home initiative allows NWBRV to partner with community development organizations, public housing authorities, and other non-profits to equip Rhode Islanders with the resources necessary to acquire and maintain affordable, high quality housing. For more information or to join this program, please contact Tyler Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us online