Being one of the first interns to work on the Sunday Breakfast Farm was a joyful experience for Overcomer Greg. He shares his experience and a bit of his story in the video above – Grow Food Where You Live – filmed by Natasha Cohen-Carroll through Asian Arts Initiative.
In the rain or in sunny weather, Greg said he found himself working alongside local artist and urban farmer Meei Ling Ng, who spearheaded the farm effort with AAI more than a year ago.
“Plants need to be maintained, brought along – they need to be pruned so they can grow … it’s just like us,” Greg said. “Down the line, it turns into something beautiful, and into something someone can get something from.”
“After all this destruction,” Greg continues, “I did in my life to myself, I get some joy out of this. I can see something grow and put a smile one someone’s face.”
Overcomer Greg, and other Overcomers in the program, have learned the basics of farming under Meei Ling. She has taught them everything from planting seeds to cultivating and harvesting produce, much of which was brought to the plates of the homeless men and women the Mission serves.
Meei Ling began working with the Overcomers, staff, and volunteers at the Mission and volunteers from the local community in February 2015. Together they set up a farm and art installation in the Mission’s parking lot along Vine Street. Since it launched last winter, the Farm has become a venue for food education, food production, and community building.
“What inspired me to do this … Sunday Breakfast Farm was to use my art to draw attention about food insecurity,” Meei Ling says in the video. “Growing food where you live is part of the solution.”
The farm has provided approximately one ton of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that have been used in the Sunday Breakfast kitchen, distributed to members of the community, and sold at local farmers markets to benefit the Farm.
In preparation for the 2016 farming season, Meei Ling is working closely with a group of apprentice’s from the Mission and teaching them how to maintain the Farm. In addition to the apprentices, the farm is also dependent on dedicated volunteers that lend a helping hand.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Sunday Breakfast Farm contact the Mission’s volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support projects like the Farm by donating funds because these projects are made possible through donations. Your support helps educate homeless men and women about healthy, sustainable eating, that can have a positive impact on their lives for years to come!
For the past few weeks, every day has been Earth Day at the Mission as the Overcomers work hard on the urban farm growing in our parking lot. As you may know, it is difficult to find “green space” in Center City Philadelphia. Since
we do not have a traditional yard, our Farm is being built from the proverbial concrete up using recycled pallets.
The men in our Overcomer Program participate in weekly Skills Training classes that change throughout the year. For this spring and summer, the men are learning about building, growing, and tending a garden through the Grow Food Where You Live class hosted by the Asian Arts Initiative. Resident artist and farmer Meei Ling Ng is working closely with the men in our Overcomer program to teach them valuable skills about farming.
When a man graduates from the Overcomer Program, he should be as marketable as possible for any job he wishes to pursue. This is why everyone graduates with Serve Safe certification, a completed GED, and has a written resume. This Farm is another way to help the men gain more skills to help them further their careers. Regardless of what career path they choose to follow, these skills are valuable for when they someday own or rent their own home with their very own yard.
Therapy & Recovery
Working outside with plants has been proven to have therapeutic benefits for people in difficult situations. Horticultural Therapy can be used to rehabilitate prisoners, decrease the stresses of mental illness, or as a means of addiction recovery. The act of taking care of something so fragile and then seeing it grow into something useful is powerful and meaningful for people working towards leaving homelessness behind. Not to mention that it is an excuse to get outside and soak in some much needed vitamin D after the winter!
One Overcomer, Kisean, in particular has become very invested in this project. He was the first to volunteer to water the seedlings while they were growing inside. Now that “his babies” are outside, he checks on them regularly. He did not like to thin his plants (removing a weaker sprout which is growing too close to a stronger sprout) because he felt like he was abandoning the weaker plant. Kisean is compassionate and this project gives him the opportunity to see something thrive under his care.
The greater China Town North community has seen the value of this farm and has been very supportive as we build and plant. Through this engagement, our neighbors have had the opportunity to work with the Overcomers as partners and equals.
A few weeks ago, a quiet Overcomer, Nick, began coming out of his shell when he was assigned to be a Team Leader that would oversee the building of a pallet planter. To my surprise and joy, I saw Nick step up in this leadership role as his team finished their planter fastest and sturdily. Since then, he has been slowly coming out of his shell and continues to participate in classes.
But what do we plan on doing with all the food? Eat it, of course! The kitchen is looking forward to using these fresh ingredients to improve the quality of the meals we serve at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. With almost 600 meals served each day, these plants will be a valuable resource for the homeless community. We intend to improve the health benefits of our breakfast because it is “the most important meal of the day.” As the only provider of free “all welcome” breakfast in Philadelphia, it is essential that this meal be fresh and vitamin rich!
How You Can Help
If you would like to be involved in the next Community Build Day then email email@example.com and ask to be added to the Farm Project email list. You could also help improve the quality of food served by donating money and specifying that it is for “Better Breakfast” which means it will be designated for protein or vitamin rich foods served at the Mission. You can improve the quality of life for your homeless neighbors, today!