The World Summit on Food Security

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is hosting the World Summit on Food Security November 16-18 in Rome, Italy.

Heads of state and government ministers from around the world have come together to discuss how the scourge of global chronic hunger can be eliminated. Even though we have the capacity and knowledge to produce more than enough food for everyone in the world, roughly one billion people - that’s one of every six people on the planet - suffer from chronic hunger. Amongst those that suffer the most from food insecurity are children. For example, one baby dies every six seconds due to hunger and nearly six million children die every year as a result of hunger.

FAO has created a special website for the event which provides background, agendas, reports and live streaming of the event. You can access it here.

In conjunction with the World Food Summit FAO launched a “1 Billion Hungry” petition. Watch FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf’s call for all to join and sign the petition through this website.

This is an ideal time to focus on issues of hunger in your classroom. In addition to the resources coming out of the World Food Summit, FAO has abundant relevant information provided in the FAO hunger portal. You’ll find important facts, figures and accessible graphs on the issue of global hunger and malnutrition. A particularly interesting tool is the interactive hunger map that shows the prevalence of hunger in different parts of the world and offers country-specific data on hunger.
In addition to these resources, FAO recently released the 2009 State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report. The SOFI report raises awareness about global hunger issues, discusses underlying causes of hunger and malnutrition and monitors progress towards hunger reduction targets established at the 1996 World Food Summit and the Millennium Summit.The 2009 report examines the impact of the economic crisis on world hunger. As a result of the global economic crisis, developing countries are facing declines in remittances, export earnings, foreign direct investment and foreign aid, leading to a loss of employment, income and access to food. In combination with the persistent effects of the global food crisis, the global economic crisis has led to a sharp increase in the number of hungry and malnourished people around the world.

You can download a free copy of the SOFI report here. Please contact if you’d like to receive the report in hard copy.

We hope that you’ll be able to take advantage of these free resources to help your students and communities understand the complexity of hunger issues, but also to emphasize the importance of their work and participation in the solutions promoted by The Growing Connection.

Jill Wrigley, The Growing Connection's New Coordinator in Baltimore

Monday, November 9, 2009

We are proud to announce that Jill Wrigley has joined our team as The Growing Connection’s new Coordinator for Baltimore, Maryland. Jill received a scholarship from the Open Society Institute (OSI) to develop a garden project that will benefit communities in Baltimore and we’re delighted that she has chosen to work with TGC to achieve this goal.

As TGC coordinator Jill will set up the TGC demonstration garden at Great Kids Farm, Baltimore City Public Schools’ (BCPS) new organic production and teaching farm. Among other things, Jill intends to use the TGC demonstration garden as a teaching platform, as a tool to recruit Baltimore City schools to join TGC and to coordinate the training of teachers and staff of already participating schools.

Jill will also be working with the TGC garden at The Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School by teaching a class to engage students in a deeper understanding of where our food comes from, why it is important to our health and how food can connect all people around the world. Jill hopes the school’s TGC program can be used as a model for other Baltimore schools.

Jill’s ultimate goal is to help to revitalize the Baltimore City School’s food culture with an emphasis on local foods in school lunches and a return to on-site cooking in school cafeterias.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Check out this great video from The Point, a TGC site in South Bronx, New York!

Pinchbeck Elementary School, New TGC Partner School!

Monday, October 19, 2009

We are extremely happy when parents choose to get involved in The Growing Connection because their efforts are usually pivotal to the program’s success. For instance, Colonial Trail Elementary School’s effort to incorporate TGC into their 4th grade curriculum was spearheaded by Martie Byrum, a parent of a Colonial Trail Elementary School student. Ms. Byrum also ensured the program's financial sustainability by organizing fundraisers and getting local businesses involved in the project.

Now, as a result of the Colonial Trail’s success with TGC, it is being used as a model for other schools in Virginia. In fact, the Henrico County Public Schools board was so impressed with Colonial Trail’s success that they decided to fund Pinchbeck Elementary School's TGC program in full this year!

We are obviously very happy that Pinchbeck Elementary has joined The Growing Connection. The EarthBox vegetable garden will be cultivated by Pinchbeck Elementary's fourth graders. The students’ activities in the garden will complement what they are learning in science, math and social studies. Pinchbeck’s fourth grade teachers have already developed lesson plans that use the garden to teach their students about soil, seeds, planting, climate, sun patterns and the seasons. The students are also looking forward to sharing their experiences with students from different regions and countries.

Five Year Anniversary CUCBA Partnership

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On September 30, 2009 The Growing Connection celebrated its five-year anniversary working with schools and communities in Mexico in collaboration with the University of Guadalajara’s Center for Life Science, Agriculture and Livestock (CUCBA). TGC currently has EarthBox vegetable garden sites throughout Jalisco, Chiapas and Mexico City.

CUCBA has become The Growing Connection’s main center for research on low-cost alternative substrates for the EarthBox and complementary technologies that enhance production. For example, much research has been done on using cocopeat (ground up coconut husks), volcanic rock, Jal (a porous stone native to Jalisco) and worm castings through worm composting in the EarthBox. They have also conducted crop rotation trials to examine how to preserve the maximum amount of nutrients in the EarthBox.

In addition to research, agronomists and community development specialists work closely with communities to provide on-going horticultural training and assistance to ensure that their EarthBox vegetable gardens are a success. One of these is the indigenous community of the Huichol in the mountains of the Western Sierra Madre in the northern part of the State of Jalisco. The Huichol people do not have the tradition of growing fresh leafy greens, but through TGC large vegetable gardens were planted using EarthBoxes. Within months of incorporating the leafy greens into their traditional dishes many skin ailments were eliminated from their communities.

CUCBA has also played an essential role in providing training to TGC partners in other Spanish-speaking countries, including the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Nicaragua. Due to the success of our partnership with CUCBA, we are now collaborating with dynamic companies such as Cisco and AMD in Mexico to integrate internet access with TGC’s horticultural activities.

We are very happy with what we have accomplished working with CUCBA and hope that we can achieve much more in the future. We would particularly like to thank Jose Sanchez and Blanca Alicia Bojorquez for their tireless commitment to TGC and the students throughout Mexico.

Great Kids, Food and Ideas to Grow in Baltimore, MD

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Growing Connection presented a workshop entitled "The Growing Connection: Cultivating Food and Empowering and Connecting Youth Globally" at Great Kids Farm on Saturday, July 18. This educational farm is owned and operated by Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland.

"A Day of Free Urban Agriculture & Food Based Workshops" was divided into 3 sessions of hands-on workshops, each session lasting 75 to 90 minutes in length. Workshop topics ranged from choosing a garden to fit your space, building a garden from soil test to harvest, canning and other kitchen tips, introduction to chickens, connecting youth with nature, building an outdoor earthen oven, and more.


The TGC demo garden at River Farm, the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society (AHS) in Alexandria, Virginia has moved to Great Kids Farm, including 20 plus EarthBoxes. Hooray!

Healthy Living In The City

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Will you be in Chicago, IL this Friday, July 17? If yes, you're invited to the 3rd annual Garden Walk at the Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden at UIC from 11 am to 4 pm. It's all free and this years Garden Walk theme is "Healthy Living in the City." 

The first 200 attendees will receive free plants! Live music will be provided by BMR4 and attendees can go on guided garden tours, receive urban gardening tips, listen to lectures by Botanical Center researchers, and partake in drawings for green gear like the EarthBox. The Garden Walk is presented by the College of Pharmacy with the help of many generous sponsors including The Growing Connection. 

Many of the plants in the Medicinal Garden have been or are currently under investigation by the UIC/NIH Botanical Centers for diseases ranging from cancer to tuberculosis. Experts will be on hand to explain the medicinal uses of the garden’s many plant varieties, over 200 species of medicinal plants can be found there.

Need directions? 

The UIC Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden is located in the Illinois Medical District at the corner of Polk & Wood Streets. The garden is also just steps away from the Pink Line's Polk Street Stop. Call (312) 836-7000, TTY (312) 836-4949 for information on RTA, CTA, and PACE. Bike racks are available for commuters at the Garden.

Benefits of Starting a School Farm

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Students and teachers of Cape Coast School for the Deaf started a school garden in 2004. The school uses different gardening practices, traditional and modernized, to grow vegetables. Cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, okra, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, and cabbages are grown in-ground and within raised beds and EarthBoxes.

This new vegetable garden was a platform to undertake the practical component of the Ghana Education Service curriculum, which they're pursuing. As part of the learning activities they compared the rate of growth of the vegetables growing in the soil with those growing in containers and concluded that the plants grew faster in EarthBoxes.

The school garden has since expanded to become a school farm. Students added the rearing of pigs, rabbits and grasscutters (picture on left) to their activities. The school garden became a popular site for field trips by other schools and new friendships were being fostered. The agricultural science teachers of the school were linked with counterpart teachers in the United States through e-mail and webcast so they could exchange ideas.

Teachers helped students to look for best markets for their produce during harvest time. Some of the vegetables found their way into the school kitchen where all students could enjoy them. Most of the produce (including some piglets) were sold and a portion of the profits shared among members of the Agro-Youth club at the school. During a special Parent-Teacher Association event students were recognized with cash prizes for their activities.

Cape Coast School for the Deaf is an excellent example of how starting a school farm with TGC, using both traditional and modern growing practices, can benefit the lives of the participants involved. First is the academic acquisition of knowledge and skills and competencies that may prove crucial for sustainable livelihoods in the future; secondly, the benefit of having access to healthy food; thirdly, earning cash from selling produce; and finally, new friendships can be fostered between local and international neighbors.

Hunger and Poverty Reduction in Ghana

Monday, June 8, 2009

Although it is still officially classified as a low-income food deficit country, over the past two decades, Ghana has made significant progress both in halving poverty from 58 to 29 percent and in reducing undernourishment from 64 percent in 1979 to 18 percent in 2006. If this progress is sustained, the country will be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.

However, these impressive national achievements conceal a wide socio-economic gap between the southern and northern sections of the country. Ghana’s northern regions face grim poverty and severe seasonal food shortages.

The main occupation in this area is rain-fed farming which is carried out at a subsistence level and is confined to a short rainy season. As a result, most people are vulnerable to chronic food insecurity and abject poverty for the most part of the year. Five out of ten people in the Northern Region are considered poor. The figure climbs up to nine out of ten people in the Upper West Region, the poorest part of the country. Nearly half of all children under five years of age are malnourished, more than twice the national average.

Recurrent natural disasters such as severe droughts and floods in 2007, coupled with global food and fuel price volatility in 2008, further heightened vulnerability to poverty, hunger and disease, as most people in northern Ghana were unable to cope and had resort to a reduction in the quality, and quantity of their meals.

Reported by World Food Programme, Country Profile for Ghana

Vegetable Production in Ghana, West Africa

Thursday, June 4, 2009

For Ghanaian students and teachers, the Growing Connection experience has translated into fresh food, cash, potential livelihood competencies and new friendships.

Ghana is a country of 23 million on the West African coast. Over 70 percent of its population live in rural areas— and over 60 percent of Ghana’s poor are farmers and food producers. Cape Coast is located a little over 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the capital city of Accra.

Ghanaian students have been growing fresh nutritious produce in Ghana as part of The Growing Connection since 2003, when TGC piloted the program at the Cape Coast School for the Deaf. Since 2003, 9 schools have joined TGC’s Ghanaian family, including 3 in the Cape Coast area.

TGC participants have had great success growing many different varieties of vegetables—both in EarthBoxes and using traditional gardening methods. While most of the sites began by growing simple gardens with two or three EarthBoxes or garden patches -many have grown into full sized school farms. Different types of vegetables and other food crops are cultivated, as well as crops to rear livestock.

The huge success of the TGC gardens in Ghana has had great influence on the students. Students have been able to learn about agriculture methods that are different than the traditional methods practiced in Ghana. Gardens have yielded so many crops, there is enough produce for the students to eat, cook with for other students, give away baskets to villagers and families, and sell at local marketplaces -giving the students not only the knowledge of growing vegetables, but also how to sell them and save the money they have earned.

Because of their successes in farming, one of TGC’s schools, The School for the Deaf in Cape Coast, was awarded the National Farmers' Day Award in December 2006 for having the best School Farm in Ghana for the Basic School category. They were awarded with a certificate personally from the President of Ghana and prizes were given to all of the students to share.

Schools in Ghana have connected with other Ghanaian schools and other members of TGC from around the world. Cape Coast schools have had the opportunity to visit other sites through TGC-sponsored school excursions. Students are learning from each other and their gardens, taking knowledge and new friendships back to their schools.

2009 Summer Reading List!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All About Mexico
Recommended Stories

When choosing books to add to student summer reading lists consider these three children's books about Mexico.

The Tree is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mex
by Naomi Shihab Nye

English translations appear alongside the Spanish poems and tales that explore everything from a table set for supper to a peach tree to a legend of rabbit's long ears. The selections include writings by Rosario Castellanos, Jose Juan Tablada, Octavio Paz and many others.
Ages 8-up.

My Mexico / México mío
by Tony Johnston

Sway to the sounds, reach for the colors, dance to the rhythms, and you will find your own Mexico in these poems in both English and Spanish. Ages 4-8.

Salsa Stories
by Lulu Delacre

It is New Year's Day, and friends and family from all over Latin America arrive at Carmen Teresa's house for the festivities. When a neighbor gives her a gift of a blank notebook, everyone has an idea of how she should fill it. The discussion leads to an outpouring of stories by Carmen Teresa's loved ones. The collection of seven tales featuring Latin American foods with recipes for the dishes mentioned.
Ages 9-12.

Palo Solo Montessori School in Mexico City

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Growing Connection and Cisco Networking are partnering to fight malnutrition in Mexico.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This month of May, we are focusing on TGC’s activities in Mexico – a country that has been key in the progress of our project. It is ironic that this year, May 2009, Mexico is experiencing a high level of concern for public health, due to the H1N1 outbreak.

We are very happy that most of our Mexico sites are far from the outbreak areas. Nonetheless, our hearts go out to all our TGC friends and colleagues in Mexico at this difficult time. We hope the fresh vegetables and herbs that you are growing will help you through.

How will you celebrate this day in Mexican history, Cinco de Mayo? Enjoy a Fiesta of Flavors with healthier versions of traditional Hispanic recipes. Salud!

More Earth Day

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pictures from Earth Day

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Robert Patterson, Senior Liaison Officer, FAO of the UN shares information about TGC
and the EarthBox with Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, USDA

TGC Youth talk with the public about The Growing Connection.

TGC on Earth Day

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Growing Connection participated in the USDA's first Farm to Fork Festival on Earth Day! The festival unveiled the new People's Garden on the grounds of the Whitten Building, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Washington, DC.

The sky was rainy, the grass was wet and the air was chilly, but nothing dampered the curiosity of the hundreds that joined us or the will of USDA employees and volunteers to get this garden growing. Phase 1 is the Organic Vegetable Demonstration Garden that will demonstrate what individuals can do to embrace organic practices and healthy eating regardless of where they live or work. This new edible landscape brings life to the Whitten Building and is a welcomed addition to The National Mall. Visitors can now walk along Jefferson Drive from the United States Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial and find gardens every step of the way. Now that's exciting!

TGC participated in the Farm to Fork Festival because we support the "Growing Healthy Food, People and Communities" mission of the People's Garden . The USDA and The Growing Connection are committed to bringing fresh and healthy food within reach of children and families.

The hope is that the concepts demonstrated in the People's Garden will be practiced by the public, and if that happens, each of us will be making a contribution to providing healthy food for people and communities.

TGC has successfully engaged people and communities in solutions to overcome malnutrition since 2003 so now it's time to share what we do, what we've learned and how it's done!

Visit the People's Garden to learn more about this exciting USDA initiative.

TGC Growing in India

Monday, April 20, 2009

You can help support and learn more about the TGC India Project HERE

Friday, April 3, 2009

Welcome to our new TGC blog! We hope you'll stay awhile, look around, post comments, and share your own experiences growing food. This online community is for us to share exciting TGC news with you and highlight the work of TGC members from around the world.

The 'Spotlight On' section will feature schools, community centers and others who are transforming the lives of those they work with both nutritionally and economically. This is our public way of applauding their efforts and encouraging everyone to continue cultivating food, connecting minds and harvesting hope.

Join The Growing Connection Cause on Facebook, watch TGC videos on YouTube, and view TGC photo albums at PicasaWeb at the above links.

Have questions or comments? As always, send us an email and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.