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The Edible Garden

The Winnipeg Community Action Centre is unique in that one of its major focuses is teaching children and adults about the Jewish values of sustainability. The Edible Garden project was established in October 2010 at the centre. The $225,000 project is jointly funded by The Asper Foundation, the Jewish National Fund of Canada and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and managed by Beit Moriah. The Edible Garden is modelled on The Edible Schoolyard, a non-profit program located on the campus of Martin Luther King Junior Middle School in Berkeley, California.

The primary user of the Edible Garden is be the sizeable Ethiopian-Israeli community in the Winnipeg Community Action Centre neighbourhood. The focus of the project is to enable its participants to realize their personal potential. Not only are they personally responsible for the garden and its upkeep, thus assisting them in developing their sense of responsibility and capability, it acts as a tool to empower the youth and be used as a therapeutic intervention to deal with an array of issues. In addition, working the land increases environmental awareness within the Ethiopian-Israeli community and encourages learning about the various aspects of nutrition. Since the roots of the Ethiopian community are planted well in the culture of agriculture, first-generation immigrants are presented with opportunities to draw on their past experiences to spearhead the activities, while at the same time creating a platform for reducing inter-generational gaps within families.

The root of the Edible Garden project is the belief that through their participation in the community garden and their personal involvement in creating something from the start, disadvantaged youth flourish into cultivated individuals. The garden acts as a ‘greenhouse’ for nurturing life skills. By providing an opportunity for normative and healthy behavior, and through their involvement in specific roles and tasks, the youth are building up their sense of responsibility and conscientiousness thus strengthening their feelings of capability both individually and as a group. The youth, with the assistance of a qualified team of professionals, are responsible for the design, creation and up-keep of the garden, thus allowing them to express their voice, ideas and opinions and providing them with a space which is entirely theirs and to which they learn to feel a sense of attachment and belonging. Simultaneous work on the garden take place with their parents.

At the same time, the garden acts as a means to form a connection between the youth and their surroundings and community, as well as increasing their environmental awareness. By being personally involved in the creation of the project, the youth begin to understand the investment that goes into maintaining their neighborhood and choose to take responsibility for improving its appearance.

The garden is in a fenced-off area of around 750 m2. A significant part of the garden is dedicated to growing agricultural crops and a small part to aesthetic plants. It is organic, practices conservation of water and recycling and grows crops according to the relevant seasons. The creation and operation of the garden is being supervised by both an agricultural specialist and a community worker, in cooperation with other community garden projects in Be’er Sheva. Its activities take place within the community center. During the first stage of operation, activities are aimed at educating families about correct nutrition and healthy lifestyles. At a later stage, activities will go on to include environmental awareness starting with recycling. All activities are interactive and adapted to suit cultural needs.

An integral part of the program involves the preparation of joint meals by the youth and their parents while simultaneously learning about economical and healthy cooking. A kitchen in the center acts as the focal point for preparing these meals, with the garden’s produce forming the basis of the meals’ contents.

The kitchen is divided into two sections. One section is reminiscent of a traditional Ethiopian kitchen with the cooking apparatus and utensils replicating those used in Ethiopia, thus enabling the preparation of unique ethnic foods. The second section of the kitchen is a regular modern kitchen familiar to the younger generation. In addition, program participants take part in educational trips throughout the country and enjoy a number of highlighted events based around the Jewish calendar. A second Edible Garden was launched on December 13, 2011 at the Chazon Ovadia School in the Gimmel neighborhood of Be’er Sheva.

In 2014, The Asper Foundation, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish National Fund of England started the process of establishing three new Edible Gardens at Dekel School in Ashkelon, Ephraim Ben David School in Kiryat Gat and Yitzchak Sade School in Dimona.

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