Announcing… Our First Annual High School Story Challenge Scholarship Recipient!

We know… we promised to announce our scholarship recipient on February 5th, but we were too excited to wait! We truly wished we could have chosen all six who applied, as all were impressive in their essays and suggestions to promote awareness of food insecurity among their peers. Luckily, we had a rubric described in our previous post, “The Story of Our Story Challenge,” which allowed us to give each entry thoughtful and unbiased consideration. All have been notified of our decision; and even though the scholarship could only go to one student, we felt all six merited an invitation to check out our board of directors and, if they wish, continue to participate with Urban Seeds for our mutual benefit.

Our entrants, in alphabetical order, were:

  1. Kate Baba – a senior at Signature School who has a deep interest in public policy and wrote very knowledgeably about the deep individual and community effects wrought by lack of food access.
  2. Anna Blessinger – a senior at Signature School who plans to work in dietetics and has a passion for community gardens.
  3. Amanda Kessler – a senior at Signature School who wrote movingly about her volunteer experiences at Tri State Food Bank, and how her work there deepened both her understanding of food insecurity and her friendships with her fellow volunteers.
  4. Kayleigh Mayer – a senior at Benjamin Bosse High School who beautifully drew connections between food as a love language and a sharing of cultures, and her own work in food drives and her school’s International Club.
  5. Linus McKinney – a homeschooled sophomore and aspiring filmmaker who questioned how the huge problems of food waste and food insecurity can coexist, then proposed community-based solutions.
  6. Anna Sawyer – a senior at Signature School who tackled the deep-rooted issues with food deserts and possible education-based solutions for her essay.

Our winner, based on the criteria of “focus & details,” “organization,” and the author’s “voice,” is (drumroll, please!) Anna Blessinger. Congratulations to Anna and thank you to all our participants! Below is Anna’s essay:

How Does Food Build Community?

by Anna Blessinger

Food has the immense capability to introduce and intertwine individuals from all communities. No matter cultural barriers, socioeconomic status, or gender, we as humans are all linked through the necessity of nourishing food. Hence, during celebration, loss, trial and tribulation, societies gather to partake in a meal. From simply offering a friend a bite to eat to serving hundreds of people a hot plate at a food bank, food engenders community growth and healing, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Therefore, it is paramount that everyone has equal access to nutritious and affordable food. In 2020, my family and I created and spearheaded a new food ministry, the Corpus Christi Healing Gardens, for my church here in Evansville, building a robust community centered around providing healthy and fresh produce to those in need.

Arising as a mere concept a few years ago, my family proposed growing a community garden, in which all members could propagate and harvest the produce. Altogether, this would generationally strengthen the community and ensure that all individuals would have the equal opportunity to access nutritious food. Looking at various locations throughout the city to generate the outreach garden, we recognized the need for growth within our own faith community as well. My church held over an acre of unused land on its property, and thus, my family advanced the idea of a healing garden that would address the growing issue of food insecurity within our area. Along with the enthusiasm and volunteerism of my church family, the vision materialized.

In order to generate the startup cost of constructing a geothermal greenhouse to grow produce year round, my family, along with an additional couple, planned and carried out a fruitful harvest fest. With sole volunteer labor from individuals of all regions of the city, we were able to seed, grow, and harvest over a thousand pumpkin and squash, including over 15 varieties, in preparation for the fall season. Over the course of September of 2020, our church hosted the first annual Corpus Christi Parish Healing Gardens Harvest Fest. Volunteers and vendors donated their time and efforts to sell an array of baked goods, handcrafted products, and multiple activities for children to partake in, such as hayrides and crafts. All proceeds from the Harvest Fest benefited the various Corpus Christi Parish ministries, the Father Deydier House of Discernment for young men, and were reinvested into the Corpus Christi Healing Gardens Food Ministry, as a first step in raising funds for a geothermal greenhouse to provide year-round fresh produce to those in need in the Evansville area.

Throughout the year of 2021, we will continue to grow and expand the ministry and within the next five years we aim to have the Healing Gardens and greenhouse fully functioning as a food ministry for all members of the community and city. The gardens will provide nourishment for body, mind, and spirit. Incredibly, the Harvest Fest brought not only my church community closer, but it additionally attracted individuals from all age groups and various regions of the city. Schools attended the gardens on field trips, receiving fundamental education on how to to grow their own sustainable gardens. Additionally, many new faces joined the Corpus Christi Church parish, eager to engage with and volunteer for the Healing Gardens. As I pursue dietetics in my undergraduate studies, I plan on using what I learn to nourish, transform, and connect my community through food. It is beautiful seeing the immense capability that food
has on integrating individuals, by building and fortifying a community based around the greater good of providing quality and nutritious food to all.

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