Over the past three years, USDA has welcomed seventh-graders from Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C. to participate in “Deal Gives Back,” a day of service that empowers students to serve their community. This year was no exception. Alongside local volunteers, 118 students and faculty spent a day at USDA’s People’s Garden planting, weeding, and tilling soil to better understand how community gardens can increase access to fresh, healthy food choices in communities where nutritious options aren’t easily accessible.
All work and no play? Not a chance. After a warm welcome from USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration Dr. Gregory Parham, the students checked out demonstrations from the Agricultural Research Services’ (ARS) Bee Research and Systematic Etymology Labs to learn about insect classification, research, and the vital role pollinators play in growing healthy fruits and vegetables. And to wrap up the day, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy stopped by with a surprise treat – an invitation to try toasted mealworms. Yum!
Events like “Deal Gives Back” allow young people to enjoy the outdoors, learn where their food comes from and see firsthand the role agriculture plays in their day-to-day lives in both rural and urban communities, including our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
The Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is thankful for everyone who helped make this opportunity happen, including the People’s Garden volunteers and Timber Pizza Co., a local eatery which generously donated over 70 pizzas for students, faculty and volunteers.
The People’s Garden Initiative works with federal, state and local partners to build and sustain gardens that grow healthy food, people and communities. To find a People’s Garden near you, check out our interactive map at peoplesgarden.usda.gov.