Thursday, April 19, 2018
Opinion

School yard gardens in St. Petersburg are only the beginning

A former environmental sciences professor at Eckerd College is making a difference in the lives of scores of south Pinellas County children, one garden at a time.

Kip Curtis is the founder and executive director of the Edible Peace Patch — a nonprofit project that is in four schools in the Sunshine City.

The goal is simple: "Build gardens. Feed bodies. Expand minds. Grow community."

Since 2009, gardens have taken root at Campbell Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Sanderlin IB elementary — Title 1 schools where the majority of the kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Curtis plans to build four more: two at elementary schools, and two at middle schools.

"We've created a 14-week program where we put volunteers in the classroom with the same kids for the semester," he said.

Since moving to the city in 2006, Curtis said, he has been struck by the area's poverty issues that overlap with race: About 70 percent of the African-American males don't graduate from high school.

Curtis has made a connection of creating the gardens while adding a mentoring component to encourage kids to stay in school.

"We've seen the scores go up in science, math and reading at some of the schools,'' he said. "Ultimately we're about helping children learn.''

The program combines environmental and social issues — and attempts to reduce dropout rates and the impacts of poverty.

Curtis has a lofty goal of taking the project to all Title 1 schools south of Central Avenue. But he also envisions taking this project beyond the schoolyards.

Curtis' plan, if successful, will put the Sunshine City on the national map for taking innovative steps that target educating children in poor communities while enhancing the quality of food sources to the broader community.

That plan calls for the purchase of a 15-acre tract at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street and 32nd Avenue S to establish a sustainable urban farm project.

The land, which is a stone's throw from Lake Maggiore, was cleared years ago with plans for low-income apartments, but those plans fell through.

Now the Edible Peace Patch wants to covert that land into an urban farm.

The project is garnering attention from local and national investors. The nonprofit is creating a Founders Fund to raise the money to put the whole vision together.

The expansive grounds will feature an apiary (for honey), in-ground water storage, student/faculty housing, an education center and kitchen and shade house.

In the meantime, Curtis and his charges are gearing up for Farmraiser 2013, which is set for Oct. 27 at the plaza at the Mahaffey Theater.

At this event, Tyson Grant, executive chef at Parkshore Grill, will create a menu of tapas using the produce grown in school gardens — just like many farm-to-plate concepts that have sprouted in larger communities across the country.

Meanwhile, Curtis continues to raise money and awareness about the success of the projects.

The Tampa Bay Rays Foundation provided a grant. So did the Tampa Jaycees.

Just as in the schoolyard gardens, the group is organically growing support throughout the broader community.

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected] or at (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter at @StPeteSandi.

Comments
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18