The USDA CYFAR initiative is a federal funding opportunity open to land grant Universities like The Ohio State University to bring the resources of the University to the community. CYFAR stands for Children Youth and Families at Risk. Urban GEMS was funded in 2015 to develop and test new approaches to address educational and nutritional challenges faced by children and families in two implementation sites in Columbus, Ohio. The Urban GEMS team began enrolling youth in the program in June of 2016.
Community Implementation Site 1. Reaching Higher Heights Community Care Center 4 Life
RHH4L is a local non-profit organization serving the Southside of Columbus and is an implementation site for Urban GEMS. Youth at RHH4L have been engaged since 2014 in a summer community garden (outdoor) and since the fall of 2015 with the indoor Tower Garden systems. RHH4L youth meet every Wednesday after-school to learn about aeroponic food production, nutrition, positive youth development, and social justice advocacy. Adult mentors and volunteers join the youth in planting, maintaining, and harvesting the produce off the Tower Garden system. The group held a first successful Salad-in-a-Jar party in December with each child making up to 3 varieties of salads to take home for his or her family to enjoy. The garden club has been modeled after a traditional 4-H club and as such the students held elections and have been serving as leaders for the past six months. We served 105 children this summer. The after-school program serves about 25 -30 youth each week. Urban GEMS is also run during the RHH4L youth summer camp. During the 8-week summer camp, Urban GEMS team members teach the children (5-17) about gardening, nutrition, positive youth development, and art.
School Implementation Sites:
Beginning in August 2107, Millennium Community School is our school implementation site partner. Students in 8th grade participate in Urban GEMS on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Urban GEMS is categorized as a special integrated within the Millennium curriculum. Students are engaged in hands-on learning utilizing vertical aeroponic grow systems and other gardening methods to grow fresh healthy pesticide free crops. Lessons in topics such as the food system, plant biology, pest management, product market, food safety, basic chemistry, data management and analysis, record keeping, financial resource management, nutrition and food preparation, and much more.
Urban GEMS also has a partnership with Principal Nikki Myers at Salem Elementary School. Salem has a tower garden in the school for academic enrichment and hands-on learning during the 2017-2018 school year.
Urban GEMS Youth Work Implementation Site 1. The OSU African and African American Studies Community Extension Center
Urban GEMS will provide internship opportunities for teens at the Urban GEMS farms on Mt. Vernon Avenue and Parsons Avenue in late 2017.
Urban GEMS Youth Work Implementation Site 2. The Urban GEMS farm on Parsons Avenue.