Q&A With Microgrant Recipient Devin

Karma for Cara Microgrants help fund exceptional service projects led by youth 18 and under working to better their communities. Read about our microgrant recipient, Devin. Devin started the Pleasantville Community Garden in 2014. Using land at St. John’s Episcopal Church and the help of close to 100 volunteers, they grew 500 pounds of fresh produce for local food pantries in their first year.  
1. What inspired you to create the Pleasantville Community Garden?
When I was 11 years old I was doing research when I found that 1 in 5 people in Westchester County are affected by hunger. The problem is that there are many wealthier people in Westchester which makes people think that the region is generally affluent. People don’t realize that some many people are hungry and need support. Most of these people are food insecure, a term meaning that they are not sure if there will be enough food for the week. I was astonished by this information and embarrassed by how much hunger was plaguing my county. I decided that I needed to something to fight this horrible disease of hunger that was spreading and intensifying. After talking to local activists and food pantries I found that fresh produce was in high demand. Fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy but are much more expensive than canned goods and they have a very short shelf life. For this reason, many food pantries have limited or no produce to offer to their clients. People in need must eat canned fruits and vegetables which are high in sodium and sugar which can be detrimental to their health. I realized that a garden was the best way to get healthy fresh produce to people in need. The seed of an idea was planted in my mind and the necessity to battle hunger would allow this little seed to grow into the Pleasantville Community Garden.
2. Why is your work important to you?
My work is important to me because of the impact that I am able to have in my community. The project has grown and we now collect leftover vegetables at the end of a local Farmers Market. We also grow in two local school gardens during the summer. Within two years of the construction of our garden, we have been able to donate over 17,000 pounds of fresh produce to people who really need it. I never imagined that I could have such a large impact and I am amazed at how far the project has come from just the seed of an idea. The knowledge that I have been able to bring fresh produce to thousands of people who otherwise could not have afforded it is very humbling. Feeding others is important to me because I believe that these people in need should have the ability to live a happy and healthy lifestyles.
3. How did the money from the microgrant help with your project?
The money from the microgrant helped the Pleasantville Community Garden to grow and harvest in the local school gardens. Two of the schools in Pleasantville have educational gardens to teach students about growing fresh vegetables. These gardens are left completely empty in the summer when the kids aren’t there. We  made contacts with the schools and are able to grow more vegetables and harvest them during the summer. The addition of these gardens triples our growing space! We used $400 of the money from the microgrant to update the irrigation system at the garden at the Pleasantville Middle School. This update allows us to control the irrigation system from outside the school so that we are able to grow during the summer months in this garden. We used $100 to buy soil, compost and seeds so that we could plant in these gardens. The other $300 will be used to plant fruit trees at one of the school gardens. We are currently looking into which trees grow best in our area with the help of farmers that attend our local farmers market. The fruits produced from these trees will be donated to the local food pantry. This money was instrumental in letting us move into these school gardens and bringing more fresh produce to those who need it.
4. What message of giving back do you have for others?
The best message that I can give to others about giving back is that everyone deserves to have opportunity, food and other necessities and it is every human’s responsibility to make sure this happens. The fact that 20% of people in Westchester County were affected by hunger was embarrassing to me. I was embarrassed that my county was so plagued with hunger that 200,000 people do not have enough to eat while wealthy people have a surplus of money. We are all human beings and we need to help, support and look out for each other. People should have the ability to succeed in life and I find it extremely important that we work hard to make sure that things like hunger don’t prevent success.