Mireles Academy - Creating Healthy Food Solutions with the Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP)
Mireles Academy’s afterschool Green Team has caught the gardening bug! The Green Team and their coordinator LaJuana Jackson have been working on a variety of projects to provide access to fresh, healthy food for their community as part of The Field Museum's Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP). Using the Earth Force six-step problem solving process these youth identify an environmental issue in their community, in this case a lack of healthy food, and then take steps to address that issue with a long-term solution. In this case they wanted to create opportunities to access nutritious food.
In 2012, the group worked with Centro Comuntiario Juan Diego to convert an underutilized flower garden two blocks from their school into a vegetable garden to provide food for residents and a local food pantry to address the South Chicago neighborhood’s need for healthy food options. This experience has had a lasting effect on the youth. One student, Cesar Cortez noted, “I do believe that I eat differently because instead of eating packaged foods, I eat local stuff.” To learn more about the Exchange Street Garden, watch this short video: http://vimeo.com/52937058.
This year the group is continuing to work at the Exchange Street Garden but is also setting their sights on developing more healthy food options for the neighborhood. The students developed a survey and distributed it to teachers, parents, and students in the community. Survey results indicated that community members want to learn how to grow their own vegetables and teachers want to be able to grow spices, herbs, and small vegetable plants near the classroom. Students have begun their research and are reaching out to community partners to try to see if they can implement these programs.
As if that were not enough, the Mireles’s Green Team won the honor of being an official stop on the Burpee Grow Anywhere Tour! On May 8th, Burpee will come with their touring van and set up in the school parking lot after school to distribute 450 plants to the community, 50 plants to the school, and give out 3 pounds of produce to each family. Burpee will also be distributing information sheets on the plants and recipes for the produce to encourage community members to grow and prepare healthy vegetables. In creating positive solutions for community challenges, Mireles Academy Green Team members are developing the civic skills and environmental knowledge essential to become the next generation of environmental leaders and change makers.