Let’s Grow Akron is a non-profit organization that creates and supports community food gardens in neighborhoods where access to fresh food has been unfairly limited. Let’s Grow Akron has a thirty-two year history of community organizing around food and providing technical assistance in utilizing urban land for food production. Collaborative education programs provide opportunities for people to grow their own food, prepare healthy meals from the harvest and preserve the surplus. Growing food together on a neighborhood level contributes to increased community food security and resilience. #wegrowincommunity
Let’s Grow Akron’s mission statement is to overcome blight and alleviate hunger in the community by teaching people to grow, prepare and preserve their own food while working alongside them to beautify neighborhoods.
Organizing the community to create shared spaces for gathering and growing food has a resounding impact on the neighborhood. Working together toward a common goal establishes lasting relationships. Positive interactions among neighbors in a shared effort to transform unsightly vacant lots into productive community gardens increases a sense of pride and ownership that often leads to other issues being addressed. Healthy relationships, community involvement, outdoor physical activity and increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables all contribute to mental and physical health and wellness. Increased health and wellness ultimately builds a stronger community.
Let’s Grow Akron is equipped to implement and teach the full spectrum of reclaiming urban land for food production. Staff and volunteers provide instruction on community organizing, site assessment, soil testing, clearing and preparing the land, navigating local regulations for land use and water access, seed starting, distribution of donated seeds and transplants, sustainable growing practices, soil quality improvement, composting, season extension, and seed saving techniques.
Let’s Grow Akron’s urban agriculture programs provide technical assistance in reclaiming vacant lots for growing food. Summer garden programs provide educational opportunities for children to learn about where food comes from, grow and prepare healthy meals. Cooking and food preservation classes provide instruction on how to prepare healthy meals and to preserve the garden harvest to be consumed throughout the year. Providing opportunities for people to grow, prepare and preserve their own food allows low and fixed income households to have more control of their food choices, relieve strained food budgets and ultimately increase overall health.
In 1988, as a response to a growing concern about inner city neighborhood deterioration and limited access to affordable healthy foods, Elaine Evans established Let’s Grow Akron as a nonprofit community gardening organization. She started with a sack of donated potatoes and went to work with neighbors to clear an overgrown vacant lot on Long Street in the Summit Lake neighborhood. The harvest that season yielded an overflowing truckload of potatoes; enough to feed the neighborhood and give back to the food pantry that had donated the original sack. This was only the beginning. Over the years she worked alongside every underserved demographic to build community while growing food. She transformed hundreds of unsightly vacant lots into productive gardens, fed thousands, and donated immeasurable amounts of fresh produce.
Elaine had a very special love for children and established the Harvest of Hope Children’s Community Garden program to teach them how to grow and sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. She gathered the children in the Summit Lake area and teams of adult volunteers to clear one of Akron’s top ten illegal dump sites to create The Children’s Garden. This 19,000 square foot lot was transformed to include a pond, stream and walking bridge, an arbor, and ABC garden with a plant for every letter of the alphabet, a 60 foot canal boat replica, a 13 foot dinosaur, and several other sculptures that were planted in the numerous flower beds. In 2017, with the help of Keep Akron Beautiful, the garden was renovated and dedicated the Elaine Evans’ Memorial Children’s Garden.
This year Let’s Grow Akron celebrates its 34th year as a nonprofit community gardening organization. The work of founder Elaine Evans is visible throughout the inner city where she transformed vacant lots into green spaces and community gardens that continue to improve neighborhoods and feed the neighbors. After the retirement and unfortunate passing of Ms. Evans, the torch was passed to Lisa Nunn to continue Let’s Grow Akron’s mission to overcome urban blight and alleviate hunger in the community by teaching people to grow, prepare and preserve their own food.
Let’s Grow Akron Founder