As Alan explained in one of his most recent posts, CACLV “gives men fish” when they have no access to a pole or pond, but the goal of our programming is to “teach men to fish” whenever possible.  One of the newest ways that we have done this is through assisting neighborhoods with creating and sustaining community gardens.  A group of graduates from the 2009 Leadership Lehigh Valley class began SUN*LV (Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley) as a project to promote local food growth and neighborhood gathering places, and they approached CACLV as an administrative partner.  Eighteen months and a half dozen vegetable gardens later, SUN*LV has proven that the appetite for local food growth, especially in our most challenging neighborhoods, is far from being satisfied.

There are many recognized benefits to community gardening.  Gardens may serve as an urban revitalization strategy by creating green space and beautifying grounds that were once perpetual eyesores.  It is amazing what this inexpensive physical improvement can do for a struggling community!  In addition, these new green spaces often serve as formal gathering venues for neighborhoods in which the public realm had been suppressed for decades.  Some would argue that the destruction of quality public spaces was the undoing of many now-struggling cities.  Sometimes neighborhoods include small amphitheaters to serve as spaces for performances and other community artistic outlets.  Add in a youth-created mural and suddenly you have an asset that elicits great community pride and cohesiveness.  And, of course, a plot of land in an otherwise concrete jungle where a family of limited or modest means can stretch their food budgets with fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables is a beautiful thing in so many ways: more personal funds to improve the family, less reliance on public food assistance, decreased risk of health problems from consumption of over-abundant and convenient calorie-dense foods, and an environmental impact and resource depletion that is negligible or nothing.  It’s a winner for everybody!

And we want to show our support for community gardening in a new and exciting way.  CACLV and SUN*LV proposes a challenge to groups or agencies in Lehigh and Northampton counties to submit proposals for up to $7,500 to create and host a community garden for its members, volunteers, and/or clients.  The SUN*LV Community Garden Challenge of Spring 2011 seeks to leverage local neighborhood resources in an efficient and high-impact way in order to improve Lehigh Valley communities in need.  We prefer strong, sustainable partnerships, and a local community-based nonprofit or mission-based governmental entity (i.e. Weed & Seed, Bureau of Health, etc.) must be among the applicants.  Please check out SUN*LV’s website and click on the Garden Challenge application on the right side of the page, or click here to download the application directly.  If you know any organizations that might be interested, please help us spread the word.

Want to get involved with SUN*LV or learn more about community gardening and how SUN*LV can work with you to improve your neighborhood?  Go to www.sunlv.org or email us at info@sunlv.org.