Megan Chen — author, Dual School alum and rising junior at Newark Charter — has always had a passion for environmental issues. Now, she’s also the founder of a 501(c)(3) called the Urban Garden Initiative.
“I learned about the food desert problem in Wilmington, and I had an idea that I really wanted to stick with,” she told Technical.ly.
Chen is sharing the concept of urban gardening with kids as young as preschool age, through middle school — where agricultural education is often lacking — by partnering with local schools and teaching hour-long container gardening workshops. Classes can then maintain the containers themselves.
“We aim to spread environmental and sustainability education through the urban gardening educational component,” said Chen. “The gardens are one way to learn how to do that, but we go over other [aspects of sustainability], too.”
While agricultural programs in some public high schools serving the city have ramped up in recent years, with working on-campus farms at William Penn and McKean, the Urban Garden Initiative doesn’t need that level of dedicated space. The container garden method it teaches kids can be replicated almost anywhere.
“Our curriculum is very adaptable,” said Chen “You can start at any age. The containers are transportable, and can even be used indoors.”
The Urban Garden Initiative team includes Chen’s father, Rui Chen, a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta and a MBA from the University of Delaware, and Tara Cain, a current student at UD.
Zack Jones, the director of Dual School, continues to mentor, along with Daniel Farmer of the Peace Corps, Emily Easter of North Star Orchards, Shaquona Meyers of Nativity Prep and Sierra Ryan Wallick, founder of Autumn Leaf Fundraiser.
And, of course, there are partnerships. The organization is a partner with Wilmington Green Box on its new urban farm project, and is connecting with community centers via Green Box founder Jason Aviles, who exclusively employs Wilmington youth.
With the org’s new 501(c)(3) designation, Chen plans to apply for grants to help fund the work. For now, she is funding it herself, with a small launch this fall that will include three to five schools, including Shortlidge Elementary, Shue-Medill Middle and Mom’s House, a Wilmington daycare and preschool that helps low-income single parents continue their education.
“We want to give youth the knowledge and resources they need to be the ones to create change,” Chen said.-30-