Feeding Inkster With Community Gardens

In 2010-2011, the National Kidney Foundation Michigan (NKFM) received a capacity-building grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health‘s Office of Minority Health to reduce minority health disparities in the community of Inkster in western Wayne County.  The first year of the grant was devoted to identifying key community stakeholders and forming a coalition of these stakeholders. (As the program evaluator for the Inkster grant, I monitor and report on the program’s progress.) That coalition, the Inkster Partnership for a Healthier Community (IPHC), initially worked to define their vision, mission, and structure.  After several sessions in which the group participated in the identification of the main issues facing Inkster residents, the coalition organized itself into workgroups, each of which was to work on helping to solve one of the identified issues.  The “Feeding Inkster” workgroup decided to put its efforts into developing community gardens.

Feeding Inkster began with several members’ personal knowledge of gardening and expanded their access to expertise and resources through contacts with the NKFM.  Starting from scratch, Feeding Inkster identified areas where they could locate the gardens; recruited help from local individuals and from the City of Inkster for machinery and other resources; prepared the land for planting; planted, maintained, and harvested the gardens; and distributed the produce to gardening volunteers and local pantries.  Students and teachers from two Inkster school districts played major roles in the project.  The first season faced several challenges, including heavy rains that delayed planting . Nevertheless, the season was a success, yielding 6800 pounds of produce.

Today, Feeding Inkster’s second year of community gardening is off to a fine start. The workgroup meets every two weeks to discuss and implement the steps necessary for the expanded gardens to thrive this year.  Plants have been ordered and responsibilities assigned.  One member of the group is taking a Master Gardener class in order to provide guidance to the gardeners.  Feeding Inkster has introduced gardening clubs in the Inkster schools.  The impact of the community gardening project on food security in Inkster is augmented by the nutrition and health education classes sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation Michigan.  In addition, Feeding Inkster has arranged for informational cards to be printed giving the locations of the community gardens and food pantries in Inkster.   This is truly a story of successful community engagement in the service of improving the health and well-being of a community’s residents.