Fresh produce for a hard edged world

The Bowery area of Manhattan – the same area that was once known as “skid row” – today hosts high-end lofts, galleries, and the New Museum. One neighborhood fixture that hasn’t changed much is the Bowery Mission, whose goal of providing services to homeless and hungry New Yorkers has endured since opening in 1879. However, the Mission has recently embraced urban agriculture, resulting in the enthusiastic opening of the Bowery Mission Rooftop Farm.

The Mission hopes to meet its seasonal produce needs through its very own rooftop farm, which will also help provide insulation, reduce energy costs, and integrate educational opportunities. According to Matt Krivich, Director of Operations, “the coming harvest will provide healthy options to the homeless men and women here, and to local hungry people who can’t afford to eat healthy”; as well as empower students and clients who participate in the maintenance of the rooftop farm.

Food brings us all together – whether it’s around a table, a farmer’s market, or our common need for nourishment. The Bowery Mission Rooftop Farm acknowledges that relationship, linking marginalized individuals and social service provision to the need for increased local food production. Access to fresh, healthy food is a challenge in many urbanized areas in part because of land use density, high costs of food transportation, and insufficient access to a variety of vendors. This is especially difficult for low-income residents, many who may struggle to eat in general, let alone healthily.

Sustainable food systems require collective community networks to thrive. While a single rooftop garden in Manhattan won’t solve our energy and food crises immediately, the Mission provides an important example of how to address pressing issues of urban sustainability with holistic solutions. The project is itself the product of shared efforts: green building company Greensulate  provided construction materials and labor support, while popular natural foods retailer Whole Foods donated the seeds. Students from the Pratt Institute  worked to generate plans for future rooftop development, including wind turbines, salsa production, and greenhouses.

Stay tuned for further developments from this project by checking out their Facebook page and Twitter feed. You can also support the project and the entire Bowery Mission through donations or by volunteering.

Image: Bowery Mission Twitter