Big Green Partners with Children’s Foundation and Hazon to Plant Giving Gardens

Garden education non-profit Big Green is using their Metro Detroit school learning gardens to grow fresh produce for their communities.  

The COVID-19 outbreak has had a devastating impact on food insecurity and nutritious food access throughout the Metro Detroit region. In response, Big Green Detroit, in partnership with Hazon: the Jewish Lab for Sustainability in Bloomfield Hills and with funding from The Children’s Foundation, has adapted twenty-one school learning gardens into “giving gardens”, where they are currently growing vegetables for later donation to communities.

Tomato, bean, and zucchini plants growing in the giving garden at Chandler Park Academy.

“The effects of COVID-19 across our food system will be felt for months if not years to come. It is vital that we each do what we can to support one another. We are gracious for the opportunity to help feed our communities,” said Ken Elkins, Regional Executive Director of Big Green Detroit.

Traditionally, Big Green provides food literacy and garden education for K-12 students through lessons and activities based in school learning gardens. However, with stay-at-home orders this past spring semester and students currently home for summer break, they have been unable to provide normal programming for schools. Instead, Big Green quickly transitioned to producing activities for, which features a variety of gardening lessons and projects that students, teachers, and student caretakers can complete at home. Now, to meet their goal of providing direct food access, Big Green Detroit is teaming with Hazon to grow over 200 pounds of fresh produce in their learning gardens, or approximately 4000 servings of food, for donation to students and their families in the Metro Detroit region.

Project Manager Odie Avery working in one of Big Green’s Chandler Park Academy giving gardens.

“Food allows people to come together, but when there is a crisis such as this pandemic it is a time to step things up even more,” said Wren Hack, Executive Director of Hazon Detroit.

In June, the Big Green Detroit team planted tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, beans, and squash in “giving gardens” throughout Harper Woods, Hazel Park, Southfield, Oak Park, and Ferndale schools. Once these vegetables are harvested from the gardens, they will work with their school communities, with the online farmer’s market Michigan Fields, and with Hazon to distribute the produce.

About Big Green Detroit

Big Green was founded in 2011 by Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson, with the mission to build a healthier future for children by bringing food literacy programs and outdoor learning gardens to schools throughout the country. Since 2018, Big Green has installed over 50 learning gardens in schools throughout Metro Detroit, with funding provided by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Dresner Foundation, Delta Dental, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Pathways Foundation, United Way, and Gordon Food Service.