Rotary Club Community Gardens
Why the Program Matters
FCHS was inspired by the local action as food insecurity and lack of nutritious options for food insecure families is truly a root cause of complex healthcare conditions in our area. Household food insecurity, defined as the inability to provide enough food for a healthy and active lifestyle for all household members, is not just a local problem but is defined as a major U.S. public health problem. Household food insecurity also has insidious effects on the health and development of young children, including increased hospitalizations, poor health, iron deficiency, developmental risk and behavior problems, primarily aggression, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. These concerns early in life increase children’s risk of poor school readiness, poor school performance and subsequent health disparities and poverty. Research among school-age children has found associations between household food insecurity and low scores on measures of health, behavioral functioning and academic performance. Ensuring food security is a national priority, and the valiant effort of the Fishers Rotary Club to develop grassroots efforts to combat the issue in their local community is to be commended.
How the Program Works
The Fishers Rotary Club developed their urban community garden project in 2015 to provide fresh, organic, locally grown produce for food insecure people living in the community. Fishers Rotary Club partners with Christ the Savior Lutheran Church who donates the land for the garden. The church also developed their own garden to support the project. All produce from both land areas is then donated to the Delaware Township Food Pantry which serves food insecure families in the Fishers’ area. Hamilton Southeastern High School students participate in the project by planting all of the seeds and growing the seedlings in the greenhouse prior to Fishers Rotary Club volunteers planting the produce. This is accomplished through the schools’ FFA (Future Farmers of America) Club. All of the labor and harvesting of the garden is made possible through the volunteers from the Fishers Rotary Club.
The goals of the Fishers Rotary Club Food Insecurity Initiative are as follows:
- Develop an ongoing, sustainable program that directly addresses the issue of food insecurity in Fishers and the surrounding counties.
- To advance and not duplicate efforts that are currently addressing food insecurity in the community.
- To create opportunities for Rotary Club Members to have involvement in a local community effort that directly benefits Fishers and the community.
FCHS developed an independent study of the Fishers Rotary Club food insecurity project to collect and analyze the following data in 2016 to assist in determining the impact of the community garden:
- Amount of produce generated from the community garden
- Volunteer hours to manage produce production
- Number of people who benefited from the produce
- Number of children who received benefits
Additionally, the Foundation worked directly with the Delaware Township Food Pantry to survey individuals who took produce at the pantry to expand Fisher Rotary Club’s understanding of the following:
- How many people in the family consumed the produce
- How many children in the family consumed the produce
- How much produce was wasted
- What produce did people like most / least
FCHS Impact Study
In 2016, the Rotary Groups’ plan was to leverage the learning and success from the first year to increase the amount of produce provided to those in need within the local community. They also wanted to increase the involvement of Club members in the effort. Both efforts proved successful as shown below:
- In 2015, the inaugural year of the community garden, the Rotary was able to produce over 1,000 lbs. of fresh produce.
- In 2016, the Foundation documented a 125% increase in produce production based on study results. The total produce harvested through the Rotary Groups’ plot (1,358.50 lbs.) and the Christ the Savior Lutheran Church plot (901 lbs.) totaled 2,259 lbs.
- In 2015, the Delaware Township Food Pantry distributed to an estimated 250 recipients throughout the summer/fall of 2015.
- The Delaware Township Food Pantry estimated over 300 families took produce during the summer/ fall of 2016 which was a 20% increase in recipients served.
- In 2016, Rotary Club members logged 780 volunteer hours in 2016 to support this philanthropic effort in the community. While volunteer hours were not previously tracked, the support from the Rotary Club exceeded the expectations for the community project illustrating an enhanced interest in the effort.