Eastside Youth Service Corps: Expanding the Edible Hunter Park, Increasing Food Security, Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Fostering Food Entrepreneurism

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2015: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2017
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Rita O'Brien
Allen Neighborhood Center


Not commodity specific


  • Sustainable Communities: community development, local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Youth Service Corps (YSC), a job and life skills training program for youth ages 11-17, engages in service-learning projects focusing on food access in the northeast quadrant of Michigan’s capital city. Our current projects include: 1) Garden-in-a-Box, whereby youth construct and deliver 2’x2’ garden box kits to the homes of neighbors who have limited income and gardening skill; 2) Fruit Tree Project, in which youth map, harvest, and re-distribute fruit from neighborhood fruit trees in effort to minimize food waste; 3) Edible Park, where youth plan, plant, and maintain fruiting trees, bushes, and perennial herbs in a designated space in Hunter Park where edibles are available, free for the taking; and 4) Park Cart, a concession cart selling healthy, affordable snacks to farmers market patrons.

    We plan to build on the successes of each of these projects, allowing for an even greater impact on the health and viability of our community, while further increasing horticultural and entrepreneurial skills of our young participants.

    Our main focus areas for this coming year are expanding the Edible Park and Park Cart projects. YSC members will continue to expand Edible Park areas to increase offerings of free produce to people living in this low income, food insecure neighborhood. Specifically, youth will expand the edible area of the Park to include a space with more intensive crop production, grown with the intention of developing value-added food products. These healthy, low-cost value-added food products will be created by youth in the Allen Market Place (AMP) licensed incubator kitchen, and sold at their Park Cart stand at the Allen Street Farmers Market.

    During YSC program sessions, held in the AMP kitchen and Hunter Park GardenHouse each Monday & Wednesday afternoon during the school year, and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the summer months, we will hold sessions on each component of these dynamic projects. The Youth Programs Coordinator will plan and facilitate age-appropriate sessions for YSC members, developing their skills in planting, maintaining, harvesting, and utilizing fruits, vegetables, and herbs to create value-added food products. We will also host special guests for sessions focusing on sustainable agricultural practices, business, and marketing. John Hooper, board member of Michigan Organic Food and Farming Alliance will teach fruit tree care techniques. Adam Ingrao from MSU’s Entomology Department will teach organic pest and disease control. Diane Smith, of MSU Product Center, will work with youth to develop a business and marketing plan for their food products.  

    Additionally, we will host a monthly Edible Park Collection event, to enhance youth leadership skills in an agriculture setting and educate community members about Edible Park and the beneficial food we are growing. Expansion of these two projects will not only increase food accessibility, but be an outlet through which youth can educate neighbors about the horticultural maintenance, culinary possibilities, and nutritional values of these crops.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.