ALTON — The city’s Inner City Community Garden is planted and ready to sprout, not only with food for nutrition but also with food for thought for the participating youth.

Alton Housing Authority Executive Director Lisa Brown manages the garden and the Community Garden Committee coordinates the Inner City Garden at a fenced-in lot off Elm Street near the former Eunice Smith school. 

Garden organizers’ goals this year are to teach gardening, canning and giving by Alton children 10-13 years old. Produce and products of the produce, such as fresh garden salsa, will be distributed to those in the community in need, said Community Garden Committee’s Lee “Abe” Barham who leads the effort along with Shirlene Jones and Faye Taylor.   

Inner City Garden sessions with kids will begin the first week of June and run through mid-September, excluding rainy days.  

“Our focus is to teach gardening skills, share the harvest, and introduce canning techniques,” said Barham, the project’s founder who grew up gardening. “Technology has come a long way. But having all of this online knowledge has weakened us in the basic necessities of life.

“We have love for our children and love for our community,” he said of the committee. “We are getting away from who we are with technology taking over the basics in our everyday life.

“Youth should be taught to plant a seed and watch it grow,” he said. “Youth are yearning to be taught.”

The Alton Housing Authority has a kitchen where the children can create recipes and preserve produce from the garden.

“They can take some home and share with their families and the senior citizens in the housing authority’s senior complex located behind the garden,” Barham said. “They have empathy for the seniors and suggested taking their harvest there. That’s great for them;  knock on the door and a senior sees their smile.”

The committee wants to plant more gardens in Alton and turn vacant lots into green space.

“It doesn’t cost much for plants and seeds. It just takes some commitment,” Barham said. “The kids are my inspiration. They help motivate us when watching their eyes light up, picking something they grew, and weeding the garden. That’s joy.”

The housing authority is helping with costs, and Theodora Farms, a 10-acre vegetable, flower and herb farm in Godfrey, is helping with plants and seeds. The committee long-term goals include building on last year’s success, collaborating with Theodora Farms. 

The committee is seeking sponsorships for this season’s Community Garden, as well as volunteers. Monetary donations can be made to the Alton Housing Authority via Brown at 618-465-4269, Extension 14.




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