Digging into community gardening

RALEIGH — Local food advocates gathered in downtown Raleigh for the Dig In! conference on Saturday, March 4, to educate people on ways they can be a part of the local food system. The conference featured storytelling, workshops, and hands-on demonstrations to get attendees in the spirit to dig in the dirt.William Winslow, a Wake County fifth-grader known as “The Food Drive Kid” kicked things off in an inspiring way during the welcome portion of the day. “This is important because in the U.S. one in five kids are at risk of hunger, but in North Carolina one in four kids are at risk of hunger,” said Winslow. The Food Drive Kid began his efforts to give back while he was in the first grade and since that time has raised over $26,000 and over 27,000 pounds of food.As his fundraising efforts matured Winslow learned about food deserts and observed that access to fresh food could be filled with school gardens. “School gardens are sustainable for hunger relief — last year I applied for and was awarded a grant for a sustainable hunger relief program,” said Winslow. To put that grant into practice Winslow met with organizers at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle who further drove home the sustainability model of community gardens. Winslow worked with the IFFS Raleigh Urban Agriculture Programs Manager Katie Murray to put the plan in motion to build out a school garden at Ligon Middle School. “I raised $1,200 more and recruited about 50 students and adult volunteers to help,” said Winslow. “With $2,000 worth of wood, soil, and supplies, Katie, our volunteers, and I had that garden built in one afternoon.”The day marked the fourth annual conference put on by Advocates for Health in Action and the same bootstrap mentality that Winslow displayed in his opening remarks was a thread throughout the day. Adults and children learned about what to grow when, how to start a community garden, and teachers even had the opportunity to gather for continuing education credit by learning about how to incorporate gardening at their schools and in their classrooms.Winslow closed by calling the gathering to action, “Here’s the most important thing — if I can raise the money and get the volunteers to build a garden then so can you.”