According to Kathleen Kovacs, senior program officer with the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISK), several members of the group are planting raised bed vegetable gardens, with plants supplied by The Maumee Valley Growers and Toledo Grows, a program through the Toledo Botanical Gardens.
“We are funding the program to promote healthy neighborhoods,” Kovacs said. “The goal is to increase access to a local food supply and fresh foods so hopefully they can trade what they grow amongst themselves.”
This pilot project is in connection with the Connecting the Pieces Project, which LISK funded with a $200,000 T-grant.
The Connecting the Pieces Project is made up of members of River East Associates, the River East Economic Revitalization Corporation, the East Toledo Family Center, The Toledo Design Center, the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center and the Dillin Corporation.
Dillin Corp., the developer of Levis Commons, in Perrysburg, has been working on developing the merchandising and business recruitment plans along with the Toledo Design Center. Dillin is also behind the Marina District Project.
The Connecting the Pieces project held public meetings last year. Residents, property and business owners were asked to provide input on what they would like to see in east Toledo. All of the collected information is now being assembled into the report, which is expected to be completed in June.
“This is a pilot project and we are hoping more people become involved next year,” Kovacs said. “We are already working with Connecting the Pieces. This is a part of the whole strategy to improve the residents’ lives and to strengthen the community. We have 15 residents signed up for the project.”
The residents who signed up to plant raised vegetable beds have already been trained in how to care for the vegetables. In the fall, the goal is to train residents in how to preserve the food, Kovacs said.
“We are looking at teaching residents how to plant and plan rain gardens but won’t do that until fall,” Kovacs said. “We would like to get more people in that area more interested in the program. It is a commitment of their time. This is an area where people are gardeners already so we are hoping they teach new gardeners as well.”
Andrea Martin, block watch co-leader, said the gardens are being planted in the homeowners own back yards until the group can find an area to build a community garden.
“We are looking for space for a community garden so we can expand the program,” Martin said. “Hopefully the community will be healthier. Approximately 30 percent of the residents are senior citizens here and, because of the economy, many have cut out fresh fruit and vegetables out of their diets. This program is going to be a good thing for them.”
Martin said she is hoping the project will also help build neighborhood camaraderie. The vegetables that are grown will be shared, Martin said adding that the group is trying to plan how that will be done.
“We are also looking at rain gardens for next year,” Martin said. I would love to get Garfield school involved because they have a swale over there. We are hoping the gardens will build a stronger community here.”