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JCC Grows (Gardens)!

The Jewish Community Centers Association has taken on the First Lady’s Let’s Move Faith and Communities gardening challenge. Their JCC Grows initiative encourages members to start gardens and other fresh food access projects for the benefit of their community.

Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the blog.

When the word community is in your middle name, it’s only natural to start gardens producing healthy, nutritious foods.  The Jewish Community Centers (JCC) Association has taken on the First Lady’s Let’s Move Faith and Communities challenge of growing community gardens. They have started JCC Grows, a healthy food and hunger-relief initiative involving the creation and/or expansion of community gardens at JCCs and JCC camps. Most of the produce grown is donated to emergency food providers to help those in need. JCC Grows also promotes fresh food collection drives and connects JCCs to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and farmers markets.

JCC Garden 1

The A-B-C Garden at the Jewish Community Alliance of Jacksonville, FL helps support an early childhood curriculum.

The JCC Association is the leadership organization overseeing more than 350 Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Ys, and camps in the U.S. and Canada.  When First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move Faith and Communities in November 2010, the JCC Association committed to involving one-third of JCCs and camps in fresh food access projects within three years.

JCC Garden 2

Community members work to build raised beds for the JCC garden in Indianapolis, IN. This past summer marked the garden’s first season.

With the goal of helping to make American children healthier, JCCs and camps are committed to promoting good nutrition and encouraging physical activity, Jewish learning, and social justice values.  The JCC Association was the first faith-based organization to register their gardens as part of USDA’s People’s Garden initiative.  To qualify as a People’s Garden, a garden must fulfill three components: benefit the community, be collaborative, and incorporate sustainable practices.

Barbara Lerman-Golomb, a Social Responsibility Consultant for the JCC Association, has been spearheading the initiative: “Our partnership with Let’s Move! and USDA’s People’s Garden initiative has motivated us to synthesize the work we’re doing, disseminate more resources, share best practices, and be part of a greater good.”

Julie Curti serves as Assistant to the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.