Atlanta has one of the largest populations of food insecure people in the country, and the south Atlanta community served by Purpose Built Schools has experienced this for decades.
To help ensure no student arrives to school hungry, Purpose Built Schools partners with several organizations to increase food security in south Atlanta. We caught up with Javan Wyche, School Engagement Manager at Carver STEAM, to see how the THES Farm impacts the community.
PBSA school farms are engines for social change in the community. A neighborhood urban farm empowers Purpose Built students to be change agents in their own communities by showing them the value of creating their own food systems and ecosystems and providing their families and neighborhood with healthy, accessible food. Also, our farm provides paid internships for our students and can connect them with students from other communities and neighborhoods throughout Atlanta.
What changes have you seen in the community since creating the Thomasville Heights Elementary School Farm?
One of the biggest impacts we’ve seen is the way our community views ‘free food.’ Historically, ‘free food’ has come in the form of pantries and short-term fixes to address a long-standing systemic problem. By creating food systems that grow healthy and culturally appropriate food that meet families where they are, we’re solving the problem of food insecurity with a long-term, sustainable solution.
Why does it matter for the community to have the opportunity to grow their own food?
We’re creating food integrity, which is knowing where your food comes from, knowing you can access it, and trusting that it will be healthy and good for you and your family.
How does the farm help mitigate the effects of systemic racism?
There is power and integrity in having a choice in the kind of food you place on your table at night and feed your family. By enabling people to grow their own food, you’re literally tackling a symptom of system racism head on. The farm in Thomasville Heights serves as a community hub and ensures a Black agricultural legacy, which is a critical element of breaking down barriers put in place by systemic racism.
Most importantly, our families now know that they have allies in the fight to combat food insecurity. We have utilized urban agriculture as a bridge to connect, engage and share resources with many communities and this has opened up opportunities and access to resources for our students and parents.
What’s next for the farms at Purpose Built Schools?
The THES farm continues to thrive, and last year we implemented a food co-op at Slater Elementary. Next up, we are thrilled to be building a farm at Price Middle School to continue to nourish and empower families and students in south Atlanta.