GAF Mission

"to TEACH inner city youth and/or underprivileged persons to be successful entrepreneurs while revitalizing inner city neighborhoods with a concentration on socially responsible/sustainable business practices"

GAF is the
Western Mass Office for

Gardens and Pizza

Gardens and Pizza



I started New Growth Gardens to address a common problem – children graduate from high school with few skills and concepts for leading healthy and sustainable lives. New Growth Gardens uses gardens to introduce urban children to skills and concepts about health and sustainability.

A garden is an ideal classroom for teaching organization, patience, work ethic, and observation. What’s more, a garden makes the science of biology, chemistry, ecology and nutrition more tangible. Finally, even children who identify as “vegetable haters” will often take a chance eating vegetables they have grow. Thus, gardening can be a step in developing healthy eating habits. Working with youth in Springfield, MA and Holyoke, MA, I witnessed what a garden can do for teaching youth important skills regarding health and sustainability.

After the 2011 season ended, I traveled the country interviewing leaders in the world of urban agriculture, food justice and youth education to learn how organizations similar to New Growth Gardens use gardens to teach health and sustainability.  I went to Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco among others.

In ten weeks, I learned more many lessons but the most important lesson was that gardens are most effective when matched with an education in culinary arts. Cooking with canned tomatoes in March helps students get excited to plant, nurture, harvest, and process tomatoes.  On the other hand, growing tomatoes helps students get excited about eating healthy foods. Bottom line, growing and cooking are complementary. Practicing one without the other dulls intended impacts.

With a new appreciation for the efficacy of marrying cooking with gardening, I put New Growth Gardens on hold so I could develop my cooking skills. I cooked at 30 Boltwood in Amherst, MA and then moved to Philadelphia, PA to work at a nationally recognized “farm to table” restaurant called Talula’s Garden. Now that I am a more able chef, I am now prepared to return to the idea of teaching urban children skills and concepts for healthy and sustainable living using culinary arts in addition to gardens – which brings me to a new project called Earth to Pizza.

Earth to Pizza takes uses pizza-making as a means to help children develop 1) an understanding about the connection between food and health and 2) a food based skill set that empowers them to lead healthier lives. Children must graduate from high school with skills and knowledge that help them make healthy choices. Pizza and gardens are a creative and impactful ways of doing this. 

More on Earth to Pizza in the next post. Be well!

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