“Vegetables were piled high on my front porch,” explains Anne Genson, as we untangle a bushel of grape vines, meticulously separating between green and purple.
“The support I get from my community is amazing, they know about Sproutin’ Up and will donate fruits and vegetable from their own gardens, and anonymously leave them on my front porch. It’s really amazing.”
As we looked upon the array of vegetables spread outside one of Salud Health Center in Fort Collins, the diversity was eminent. From flavorful zucchini’s two feet long, to tiny sour grapes, the succulent spread left smiles on the faces of Salud patients as they picked up their produce upon leaving the clinic.
Sproutin’ Up began with a mission of providing free affordable farmers markets in low income neighborhoods, and teaches underserved young people gardening skills. Anne Genson developed Sproutin’ Up based upon four main focus areas: Access to Produce, youth engagement, community partnerships, and family nutrition education.
What’s even more incredible is Anne Genson, a Salud Employee, started it all from scratch.
Salud’s community HealthCorps members had the opportunity to work at a Sproutin’ Up farmers market stationed outside of Fort Collins Pediatric clinic, and during this time we learned more about the start and passion behind this incredible non-profit in a brief interview with Anne.
Q: What is Sproutin’ Up? What motivated you to take initiative in your community?
Anne: I was initially involved in Health Kids Club, which aimed to increase physical activity in kids, and in turn inspire them to eat fruits and veggies. One resounding complaint amongst the families involved in this program was produce not being affordable. This is what initially sparked my interest in helping reduce barriers in accessing healthy food, and education is a huge component.
Since the start of Sproutin’ Up Anne has devised a collection of affordable recipes which she gives out during her farmers markets. Anne communicated that lack of education and resources on affordable and nutritious food is one of the largest barriers to food access. In response, she runs an apprenticeship program for 10-14 year olds in three food dessert communities. The children work in her community gardens, where they are educated on organic farming, paid a stipend, and in turn put on famers markets for the produce they sell to their neighbors. Anne grows most of the produce she provides at the farmers market but mentioned the overwhelming amount of support she has from local farmers who have heard of Sproutin’ Up.
Anne: It’s not unusual for produce to be left on my front porch…members of the community hear of Sproutin’ Up and want to help. I could not do it without the support of community partners.
Q: How do people typically respond to having access to free produce?
Anne: People are very appreciative, and make donations. They are also often surprised there is no limit on what they can take. All food is free, and they pick their own, that’s the way I want it to be. Many people are surprised when they hear this.
Q: What’s one message you would give to American citizens in regards to Sproutin’ Up and pursuing your passions?
Anne: If we all pull together, we can get a lot done. You can do anything that you truly love and are truly passionate about and make it happen.
It was an incredible and inspiring experience to work with community organizers like Anne and hear her story, and Community HealthCorps is so grateful for this eye opening experience. Anne’s message is hopeful, and her ability to initiate positive change is a message Community HealthCorps hopes to spread throughout their service. Thanks Sproutin’ Up!