By Lindsay LaSala, Corporate and Foundation Communications Manager, ScottsMiracle-Gro
“Every day, the babies in our community are having adult experiences.”
I’ll never forget listening to a community gardener talk about the challenges facing young children in his east-side neighborhood. Violence, drugs, poverty, absent parents, hunger. It was heartbreaking. The conversation started when another community garden leader explained that a portion of our ScottsMiracle-Gro grant was used to purchase pairs of cheap, plastic flip flops.
Why? I asked.
Because children were coming to their garden barefoot. The kids didn’t have shoes and the walk to the garden was filled with trash, glass, and needles. It wasn’t safe.
If the children don’t have shoes, I asked. Do they have breakfast?
The answer was no.
This type of conversation was in no way unique. For the past eight years, I’ve worked with GRO1000 community garden groups across the country. I’ve been on the frontlines of the company’s good work in the community. I’ve listened to the gardeners’ stories. I’ve observed their neighborhoods firsthand. All of this experience has made one thing very clear to me. There are children in our communities who are vulnerable and hurting, and the garden can help.
The statistics are overwhelming. 1 in 6 children in America is hungry. Yet at the same time, 1 out of every 6 children is obese because when you struggle with hunger you become more susceptible to obesity. 1 in 5 children has witnessed violence in their family or neighborhood in the past year. 1 in 7 children has been identified with a developmental disability that puts them at risk for staying well and active. This is the first generation of children who might not outlive their parents due to poor health. And on top of all that, children are now spending less time outdoors than the average prisoner.
While the challenges seem impossible, there is hope. I’ve experienced it. Community gardens are making a difference in the lives of young children all across America. These gardens are helping meet the basic needs of families, providing healthy options in food desert communities where nacho chips from the corner store used to be the standard meal. They are providing shelter and a safe haven, free of violence, where children are gathering outside of school hours instead of wandering the streets. They are offering solace to children hurting from negligence, fostering positive relationships with other adult role models. They are providing education and work-based training, teaching children valuable skills that can be used throughout a lifetime.
In the most desolate of communities, the neighborhood community garden is serving as a beacon of hope and possibility to our youngest generation. As the largest marketer of lawn and garden products in the world, ScottsMiracle-Gro is well suited to support the development of community gardens and greenspaces. Even more so, we have a social responsibility to do so.
That’s why we created Gro More Good, an initiative that is bringing the powerful, life-enhancing benefits of community gardens and greenspaces to 10 million children over the next five years. We’re realizing this mission through the creation of gardens and greenspaces for America’s youngest and most underserved population and their families. We’ve created partnerships, such as the one with the National Head Start Association, that gives us access to the at-risk children we’re trying to serve. We’ve created grant programming that will maximize our dollars to do the best work. We’ve developed educational programming that will connect these young children and their families to gardening skills that will positively benefit their lives for years to come. And we’ve partnered with our brand colleagues to create awareness and increase support for this important work.
The Gro More Good initiative will grow more than just gardens. It will grow more than just beds full of tomatoes and rows of potatoes. It will grow hope. It will grow positive relationships. It will grow self worth and a belief in a better future. It will grow the next generation of healthy adults and nurturers for this earth.
A community gardener once shared with me how children flock to her car as soon as it pulls into the garden.
“You plant one flower,” she said. “And suddenly you’re showing a child that you care. That this piece of the earth is not neglected, will not be abused. It’s being tended. Children will always draw near that.”
At ScottsMiracle-Gro, it’s our responsibility to help that flower get planted.