Promise of Peace Gardens
“A big component of our Soup it Forward program is sharing and caring—a lot of people think that’s soft and sweet, but really, above all else, it’s powerful. Sharing and caring is what changes everything; it’s humanity. And COVID-19 has created a mindset of sharing and caring that wasn’t necessarily there in the community before” explains Elizabeth Dry, Director of Promise of Peace Gardens in Dallas, Texas.
For the past ten years, the Promise of Peace Gardens has been working to promote food access and education for youth and their families by transforming vacant urban spaces into vibrant growing spaces. In the last decade, the nonprofit has established 12 food gardens across the city and recently took over all aspects of programming at the incredible La Bajada Urban Youth Farm. As a 2020 Gro More Good Grassroots Grant winner, the Promise of Peace (POP) Gardens is looking to build additional raised beds at the renamed LaBajada POP Farm to support their Soup it Forward program.
According to Dry, LaBajada POP Farm is a place where families and community members can work together to “sow, grow, and learn about healthy lifestyles and how to cultivate nutritionally dense foods.” After observing that much of the food grown at the farm wasn’t being used by families involved in the program, the Promise of Peace Gardens launched Soup it Forward as a way to promote engagement, increase food access, and provide culinary education.
The Soup it Forward program looks to work deeply with a small number of people and then have a big impact, as such the program focuses on reaching ten families over a six month period. “We cultivate a relationship with a community member and forge an agreement of participation, then once a month send home a soup kit” says Dry. These kits contain recipes, family eating/cooking guides, locally sourced ingredients from LaBajada POP farm, and an empty jar that can be filled with cooked soup and given to a friend, neighbor, or anyone in need. Families use their kit to prepare a meal with their children and are encouraged to share their knowledge, experiences, and soup with others. “We only want to work with families for six months and then they move forward and they start educating the people around them” notes Dry, “Soup it Forward is a way to become more self-sufficient and more-self reliant, to learn how to grow and prepare food, and most importantly to help others so everyone has enough.”
During the pandemic, the Promise of Peace Gardens has adjusted their model: instead of providing soup kits, they’re creating boxes of freshly harvested vegetables, complete with recommended recipes, to share with thirty families each week. The nonprofit is also selling vegetable boxes to those who can afford it, with Dry noticing that many folks, some of whom are traveling from over forty miles away, are purchasing two boxes, one for themselves and one for their neighbor, perfectly exemplifying the sharing and caring attitude so embedded in Soup it Forward.
“We’re producing more food than we ever had at the LaBajada POP Farm and getting more attention and experiencing more community engagement now than in the past 10 years” says Dry. Given this success, the Promise of Peace Gardens is looking to expand their growing spaces and ability to serve local families. Funds from their 2020 Gro More Good Grassroots Grant will go towards building five more raised beds at LaBajada POP Farm. These raised beds will be specifically used to grow additional produce for the Soup it Forward program. “We want our programs to be practical, powerful, and sustainable,” concludes Dry, “We want people to cook together and eat together. ”
Kidsgardening and the Scotts Miracle Gro Foundation are honored to be able to support the amazing work of the Promise of Peace Gardens through a 2020 Gro More Good Grassroots Grant.