Philadelphia leaders fight hunger with guerrilla gardening

Conservator Ben Miller turned 30 abandoned plots of land in southwest Philly into vegetable gardens to feed the community.

  • The gardens also cultivate products for The people’s cuisine, where chefs like Miller and his wife Cristina Martinez cook meals to fight hunger in the city’s underserved communities.

Why is this important: Over 16% of Philadelphians are food insecure, lacking consistent and reliable access to enough meals.

How it started: Miller – who owns South Philly Barbacoa with Martinez – has lived in Southwest Philly for over a decade. Several lots in his neighborhood have been abandoned, filled with garbage and invasive weeds.

  • Miller saw an opportunity to feed the neighborhood, so he teamed up with Tonii Hicks, the culinary director of The People’s Kitchen. They shared plans with neighbors in July.

How it grows: In about 10 weeks, one lot has turned into 30, and the project is growing.

  • Miller received a grant of $ 9,000 from Pierre Barnes Center so they can hire a part-time third person to help with the gardens.
  • And last Saturday, Miller and Hicks hosted a block cleanup, featuring local artists painting a mural above two of their home gardens on 61st and Reinhardt streets.

More, They started growing all types of vegetables, including black corn, okra, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and lettuce. In some lots, they even planted peach and lime trees.

  • I tried a ground cherry for the first time in one of the lots. It was fresh, sweet and a little tart.
Taylor picks a ground cherry in the community gardens of the 62nd and Reinhardt. Photo: Taylor Allen / Axios

What they say : “It gave the opportunity to do radical work, to bring quality food to people who probably can’t afford it, ”Miller said.

  • Hicks, who wanted to get involved because she comes from a similar low-income community in North Philadelphia, said the project shows the neighborhood that “someone really cares and cares. from you”.
  • She hopes the garden will help teach young people about the culinary arts.
volunteers painting
Amber Art and Design with volunteers painting a mural for the community gardens. Photo: Taylor Allen / Axios

And after: Miller plans to open a fermentation lab later this year at The People’s Kitchen to teach students how this process works. They will ferment the garden food and produce donations a little late.

  • “Beautifying the neighborhood makes people feel good,” Miller said. “I want to contribute to the resilience and health of the community.
Tonii Hicks and Ben Miller grow sun blossoms, okra, ground cherries, squash and corn
Hicks and Miller grow sun flowers, okra, ground cherries, squash, and corn. Photo: Taylor Allen / Axios
Ben Miller and Tonii Hicks analyze growth.  Photo: Taylor Allen / Axios
Miller and Hicks analyze growth. Photo: Taylor Allen / Axios
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