Spring training is just around the bend and as MLB players prepare for baseball season in Arizona and Florida, dedicated volunteers are preparing to report for duty at Homeplate.
Homeplate is the eco-garden at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley. It also is a learning-centered initiative that grows healthy, sustainable organic food for the campus and community while providing learning, service, training and leadership opportunities for students, faculty, staff and the broader community.
The sustainable, organic garden is a living laboratory where lessons are drawn from real-life experiences rather than textbook examples, allowing individuals to become active participants in the learning process. All food grown is available to participants and distributed to local food banks to support those in need.
Mark Manteuffel, Ph.D., professor of biology at Florissant Valley, is the brainchild of this project.
“We hope that we are able to donate significant amounts of fresh, organic vegetables and herbs to local food pantries,” said Manteuffel. “We are also hosting a Food Summit on campus, with the theme of food justice.”
The Florissant Valley campus will host its inaugural Food Summit on April 22. Participants will explore subjects such as food justice, food sovereignty, food deserts, the metabolic rift, urban agriculture and permaculture, community gardens and cooperatives, among other topics. Student presentations will be a central feature of this event. Manteuffel said the Food Summit is part of the ongoing Sustainable Food Systems program at Florissant Valley.
“In addition to all that we have going on, we are now working with Hamilton Heights Neighborhood to donate fresh produce,” Manteuffel added.
Hamilton Heights Neighborhood Organization Inc. is a non-profit agency in St. Louis City that serves seniors in the neighborhoods of Wells-Goodfellow, Hamilton Heights, Mark Twain Industrial 1-70, and the community at large.
The seniors in the program are low income who face challenges of expensive medical costs, high utilities, transportation problems, rent and other factors.
The group recently received a grant from Community Development Administration to create an “EduGarden” for seniors and the disabled. The garden that they are starting is unable to service 115 seniors, so the group turned to Homeplate for help.
“St. Louis Area Food Bank provides pre-packed food boxes to distribute to 115 seniors, but the boxes do not contain fresh fruits or fresh vegetables,” said Jean Gardner, program coordinator at Hamilton Heights Neighborhood Organization Inc.
Homeplate plans to donate a mixed variety of wholesome and delicious fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits to ensure that the seniors get a balanced meal.
Last year Homeplate attracted 33 volunteers and produced more than 440 pounds of vegetables and fruit.
“Volunteers are always welcome,” said Manteuffel.
Anyone interested in volunteering at Homeplate should contact Manteuffel at firstname.lastname@example.org.