“Food is hope. Food is dignity. Food is empathy. Food is community. Food is family. Food is caring. Food is nourishment. Food is resilience. Food is building longer tables. Food is peace. Food is love!”José Andrés (Chef and Humanitarian)
Human needs don’t get much more basic than water and food, and adequate access to both is critical for health, achievement, and success. Health for Haiti’s long standing community garden project has been a sustainable and practical way to partner with the families in Grande Saline to help reduce food insecurity and support education and learning. Produce from the garden is used to provide a nutritious school lunch for the local school children and staff, ensuring that these individuals have access to at least one hot meal each school day. The garden provides rice, corn, and vegetables year round. Donations help cover the costs of planting, maintaining, and harvesting the garden and preparing the lunch. Some of the support helps to pay a small salary to the farmers and cooks who are integral to the success of this initiative.
The garden is an important part of our efforts to support education and health, and we are excited to share that we have taken another major step to support this critical endeavor. Health for Haiti and our partners in Grande Saline have begun the process of building a school kitchen in Grande Saline. Using the design we received from our partners in Haiti, a SUNY Broome engineering student produced a computerized rendition of the building. This week builders completed construction of the building’s foundation.
The kitchen will have a large, secure space for storing the produce from the garden. It will also have a dedicated space for food preparation. This will be the first modern building constructed in the community. The building will have wiring and plumbing incorporated into its structure, as we hope to eventually install a rooftop water tank and solar panels. There will be a sink for washing and surfaces for food preparation. SUNY Broome engineering students are also testing solar induction hot plates as we hope to help the school make a change from cooking over a charcoal fire to cleaner, safer, sustainable, solar cooking. The project is also providing much-needed support for the local economy as we have hired a local construction company and all materials will be purchased locally.
We are deeply grateful for help from SUNY Broome students (thank you Business Club and Engineering Club) and staff and students from Tioga Hills Elementary School for helping us to raise enough funds to begin construction. We are also grateful for grant support from the SUNY Broome Foundation and for contributions from community donors. We look forward to providing updates as the project progresses.
Although we do not yet have all of the resources we need to finish the project, we are working on completing it one step at a time. The end result is vital to the community, and we are moving forward with the faith that we will find the resources we need. In a country where half a million children are unable to attend school because of civil unrest and where 45% of the population is experiencing severe hunger, we are joining with our partners in Grande Saline to build a better future for the next generation. This is a project that revolves around accessibility to food, but as was so eloquently pointed out by Chef José Andrés in the quote above – it encompasses so much more!