Operation Healthy Heights
Access to healthy food and nutrition: School and community gardens
Racial disparities often affect availability of food options in a community. To increase access to healthy food and knowledge about nutrition, CCD partnered with the schools and created gardens at Edgewood Elementary and Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary. These "outdoor classrooms" share the joy of gardening while teaching science, reading, and math skills during each session. Learning how to make healthy snacks from the produce is part of the fun. Additionally, students take a field trip each year to a local blueberry farm to learn more about agricultural businesses and pick blueberries to take home. More information about the school garden program is at bottom of page.
Chef Demonstrations and Tastings
Last year CCD launched the "School Garden to Family Table" initiative that brought the healthy foods out of the gardens and into different neighborhoods across Muskegon Heights, highlighting and celebrating culturally significant dishes. Chef Edriese Jenkins of Executive Chef Catering provided cooking lessons and tastings using fresh ingredients from the garden. A recipe contest helped create a "Flavors of the Community" recipe book. The program included researched historical information about the dishes served, organized and presented by Steven Winston of the Muskegon Heights business Culturally Vigilant. This Chef Demonstration series was so successful, we brought back Chef Jenkins to present at the CCD Annual Winter Gathering of Friends, and we look forward to scheduling more neighborhood presentations in the future.
Seeds of Hope Community Garden
CCD also manages the Seeds of Hope Community Gardens at Barney & Leahy, near Covenant Community Church. Garden beds are available for neighbors and groups to participate, and the produce harvested is offered to members of the community. The Muskegon Heights youth 4H club, the Busy Bees, maintain a garden bed at Seeds of Hope each year. A beautiful pavilion and picnic area was recently added, encouraging community gatherings at this serene space.
Since the summer of 2011, MHPSA elementary students have participated in hands-on gardening experiences. At the Edgewood and MLK school gardens, students also enjoy preparing and sampling healthy snacks made from their harvested produce. Our Green team of students from the after school program at MLK meet weekly in the OHH Garden room to start seeds and maintain watering - and watching them grow, including lettuce, onions, mustard greens, spinach and more!
During our summer months, students attending Summer School and Project Focus at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School rotate through the garden - maintaining the garden, harvesting and preparing healthy snacks with the garden produce. At Edgewood School, we pair up with MHHS Boys and Girls Club kids, who visit the garden two days a week, maintaining the garden and taking all the produce back to their site and homes to prepare and enjoy.
During the months of February and March, the program continues with "Winter Garden Club: Beyond the Garden Walls" MLK. Students in grades 2nd through 4th grade visit the school's garden room and learn about Butterflies, Bees, and other Pollinators; grades 5th and 6th engage in activities focused around the Muskegon County Fair and 4H programs related to Health, Nutrition, and Fitness. Special guests from area organizations, such as the local Muskegon beekeepers association, join in and help keep the interest and momentum of the garden program going all year. Beyond developing the knowledge and love for growing their own food, the lessons include science, math, and reading integration in each session.
Operation Healthy Heights is made possible by a grant from the
HEALTHY Muskegon initiative of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
A collaborative effort by CCD, McLaughlin Grows, Nelson Neighborhood, and LOVE Community Gardens to promote and support community gardens in urban Muskegon and Muskegon Heights. Gardeners meet at various gardens throughout the gardening season: working, learning, sharing resources and healthy snacks and recipes.
Heights Garden to Family Table
In 2019, CCD was awarded a grant from the Sister Simone Courtade fund to help expand the garden program further into the community. In September, the Chef Demonstrations & Tastings were implemented, with four different locations selected throughout the city. At each one, a professional chef provides a full demonstration on how to cook a traditional or culturally significant meal in a healthier way. A sample tasting is also provided, along with the recipe and historical information. Attendees also entered their own healthy recipe for a chance to win Meijer gift certificates. Look for the "Flavors of the Community" recipe book coming soon!