A new green program is providing growing youngsters a healthier diet through sustainable living.

Words: Nicole Hardesty
Images: Aki Baker and Saya K.R. Baker

Michelle Obama isn’t the only one concerned with youth nutrition. Seems the trend of 2010-2011 is healthy eating. And what better way to start a good habit than when you’re young? Baker Design + Build, a boutique design and construction firm in Brooklyn, NY, introduced Farmboxes for the Adopt-A-Farmbox initiative in May 2010 as a green resource to kick start nutrition in schools across the New York City area.

“A Farmbox is a metaphor for the fertile ground for growth, growth for the better,” said Aki Baker, Co-Founder of Baker Design + Build. “Collaboration is an authentic way to empower and mobilize people to work towards a better good.”

The solution-based non-profit program aims to educate and empower youth and adults to learn to grow fruits and vegetables while taking pride in creating elements for their own survival. The boxes made from 100% recycled wood, were donated to schools and community organizations for the purpose of not only growing food, but the Bakers hope the boxes will also be used as an educational tool and vehicle for personal growth and community engagement.

With obesity being a growing concern in the New York City area, the Farmboxes encourage an alternative source for the areas that lack resources and access to fresh and more nutritious food. The US Department of Agriculture reported that residents unable to afford fresh foods result to existing on donuts, fried foods, pizza and items that are easily accessible in their neighborhoods.

“We believe that the best way to help families and communities break the cycles of diabetes and obesity is to expose them to healthier food options and to engage them in the process from seed to fork,” said Ronald Baker, Co-Founder of Baker Design + Build.

Once the boxes are placed in schools, kids will begin to cultivate their crops and watch them grow into meals. Most kids may not be so enticed to eat a mystery plate full of vegetables placed in front of them. With the Farmboxes, they plant, grow and nurture the food, leaving them more inclined to eat it later.

“There is a desperate need in our children’s lives to learn about the connection between our health, the food we eat and the environment we live in,” said Aki Baker.

A recent study by the New York City Department of Planning estimated that about three million New Yorkers live in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh foods, which leaves many of these residents vulnerable to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“We use Farmboxes to create opportunities for people to reconnect with food,” says Ronald Baker. “Our goal is to create a sense of pride and ownership while de-mystifying the concept of healthy, wholesome food.”

The boxes are efficient, easy to use, and built to last with no tools required for assembly. The sleek design provides a blank canvas for children to learn creativity in a new and environmental way.

“With the money raised, our partnering schools will be getting 4-6 Farmboxes,” said Aki Baker. “The boxes bring people together. It is delightful to watch children and adults getting their hands dirty and working together for the same purpose.”

Baker Design + Build is currently working with six schools in the New York City area. The Brooklyn Brownstone School, PS 307, PS 11, Greene Hill School, Children’s Workshop School and PS 347 will have Farmboxes installed this Spring.

“We’re just trying to bring people together over food,” said Aki Baker. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The Bakers have recently started selling Farmboxes to the public. With every two boxes sold, one will be donated to a local school. Schools or community programs interested in Farmboxes can visit www.farmbox.org. And those interested in donated to Adopt-A-Farmbox can do so at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1771434405/adopt-a-farmbox.

Images by Aki Baker and Saya K.R. Baker of Adopt-A-Farmbox.

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