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Growing nutritious foods for health

Alisha Cahlan
Urban Roots

Urban Roots is a 5-year-old educational nonprofit organization founded on the idea that food is a powerful tool for academic and sustainable agriculture instruction. In order to realize our mission of growing healthy minds, bodies, and communities, we provide school and farm-based opportunities for teachers, students, families, and future farmers. We desire to supplement the education process from the ground up and offer hands on education services to all demographics in our community. In offering these services with our partners who embrace our mission, Urban Roots has the unique capacity to serve northern Nevada with long-lasting impacts in the areas of education and health. Urban Roots is a part of a larger movement in northern Nevada to make the place we live abundant with healthy food, rich soil, and deep relationships with each other and the land.

Programs are run at a teaching farm in west Reno with trainings for K-12 teachers as well as day camps for youth occur throughout the year. We also work with schools throughout northern Nevada to install gardens on school grounds and provide classroom curriculum on healthy eating and sustainable agriculture. Our AmeriCorps members, who are involved in teaching our programs, benefit from unique service-learning opportunities even as they create their own meaningful impact within our community. In 2014, 59 AmeriCorps members volunteered more than 31,000 hours of service to Urban Roots.

Here at Urban Roots, the new year has been met with a plethora of opportunity and a more robust community engagement. In 2016, our organization will continue to build upon the success of our current programs and expand our reach to more schools, families, and businesses throughout northern Nevada than ever before.

Urban Roots will begin delivering edible education programs for the community at our new teaching farm in partnership with Renown Health on East Second Street in Reno. The new farm will consist of three high-tunnels, pollinator gardens and fruit trees. Ideas are still being hammered out for where the food will go — we first have to figure out how much we can grow there. Our preference is to have some go toward pre-natal care in the form of a Community Supported Agriculture program, also called CSAs.

“If a young mom finds out she’s pregnant, the first thing the doctor writes is a prescription for a CSA over the next 12 months. Just take your ticket down to Renown’s teaching farm and pick up your basket every week. I think that would be pretty special,” says Jeff Bryant, Urban Root’s executive director.

The site will also act as an educational garden, run by AmeriCorps volunteers, encouraging healthy eating habits. Renown invested $100,000 into the property, and $60,000 was granted to Urban Roots to build the teaching farm. Renown said that it will make a yearly investment of $120,000 to support and maintain the farm and eight AmeriCorps volunteers.

Additionally, our Community Supported Education scholarship program that allowed 61 students from low-income families, which amounted to 14 percent of students, to participate in on-site garden education programming, will continue to be built upon this coming year through foundational and individual support. Through our garden education programs, Urban Roots has introduced hundreds of kids to the joys of leafy greens while incorporating standards-based science, math and language arts curriculum.

This is just a glimpse of the great things Urban Roots has accomplished and is working towards for 2016. We hope to continue to build meaningful partnerships and grow our donor and membership base in order to increase our mission’s reach and ensure programmatic security for years to come. Revenue generated by our donor and membership program is directed into the Annual Fund, for infrastructure, supplies, scholarships & more, fueling all of the transformative education activities that take place on-site and at our partner schools.

Alisha Cahlan is the Farm to School Program Coordinator for Urban Roots.