One day it’s a flowering oasis, full of fun activities and laughing children and their families. The next day, it’s a bulldozed parking lot. With echoes of memories. If the State of New Jersey has its way, the Camden Children’s Garden, a “horticultural playground” since 1999, will be no more.
Though we have visited many of the major gardens, refuges, and parks in our area, we haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the Camden Children’s Garden located next to Adventure Acquarium right across the river from Philly. Last year, my kids and I had a chance to meet the folks from the Camden Children’s Garden at the 2012 Philadelphia Flower Show. Their fun exhibit delighted my youngest 2 children who keep asking to see the garden in person.
Located on 4.5 acres, the Camden Children’s Garden’s reach extends well beyond its grounds. In a city with one supermarket (and one of the food desserts ), 12% of the Camden population receive produce from the garden through the Community Garden program. The Garden just received a grant to launch a mobile food market program to bring more fresh produce to Camden residents.
With obesity on the rise among our children, the CCG is actively working with the next generation to help them make healthy choices. Through the GrowLab, the Garden serves 360 students in approximately 20 classes. The School Garden Program serves 4,500 students in 12 gardens, educating Camden children (Pre K-7th grade) in environmental science, nutrition and sustainability through hands-on horticultural lessons. In 2012, the Camden Children’s Garden was featured in First Lady Obama’s book, American Grown.
Children needs hands-on experiences with nature. They need to touch a tomato growing on a plant. They need to water a plant every day and watch it grow from seed. Children in large cities need access to fresh fruits and vegetables, especially poor children. These fresh fruits and vegetables feed their growing bodies, nourishing their minds, and nurture our future.
Op Ed piece on Philly.com
PHS Article about the Camden Children’s Garden at the 2012 Flower Show
U.S. Department of Education Grants to Expand Camden’s School/Community Gardens and Nutrition Education
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