Program aims to provide food sovereignty for residents in Southwest Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Food insecurity has always been an uphill battle for many across the Philadelphia region. But the pandemic has only made matters worse for struggling families.

One program is looking to step-in and provide food sovereignty for all residents across West and Southwest Philadelphia.

Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram's Garden is the epicenter for the Home Garden Bed program.

The mission is to support community and build at home low-cost garden beds for neighbors who want to grow their own food.

This initiative is led by 21-year-old Hajjah Glover, who has a vision for fresh foods being easily accessible for all families regardless of their income status.

"After I graduated high school, I was like 'What do I want to do?'" said Glover. "I thought, where do I find my most peace and my most happiness, and it was here at Sankofa Community Farm."

Glover, who is an alum of the farm's internship program, now works with the community farm's co-director Ty Holmberg to help lead their youth program.

"Here at Sankofa, we do a food justice walk. We start at 40th and Market streets, and we walk all the way down to Southwest Philadelphia," said Glover. "We go into every market, and we look and see what foods there's access to."

With a lack of organic options and fresh produce, Glover says she discovered that the food changes as she gets closer to Southwest Philly.

"There are no fresh fruits. There are rotten fruits and vegetables often," Glover said. "As soon as you walk into these stores, there are snacks. Like smack right in your face as opposed to those closer to 40th Street."

Glover says that opened her eyes and what it means for her to live inside her community.

While each bed costs more than $250 in supplies, the program makes these available to neighbors interested for only $25. Glover says the community's response has been great.

"I've noticed when we installed these home garden beds that people are so excited," said Glover. "Often, when we started the garden beds, community members come out and say, 'Oh my goodness, what is going on? What is this?'"

Glover says neighborhoods were even encouraged to share their grown produce with other residents down the street.

"That's what it's all about. Our mission is to help build sovereign communities. People can come to the farmer markets and things like that, but our mission is to build sovereign communities," she said.

The program is part of Harvest 2020 in partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which helped with most of the initial funding.

With a regional commitment to mobilize 100,000 home gardeners to grow food, Bartram's Garden has welcomed donations, which is all apart of their $10,000 overall goal.

So far, the program has raised more than $5,000, which helps produce these specific efforts:
  • $25: a collection of fall veggie starts

  • $50: healthy soil for one new garden bed


  • $100: one day of safe delivery supplies for the garden team

  • $200: two days of safe delivery supplies for the garden team

  • $500: sponsor two new garden beds

  • $1000: sponsor four new garden beds


According to Holmberg, the program is funded, through a four-year USDA community food project grant, which only intended to supply 20 beds a year over four years.

In the program's first year, Holmberg says 25 beds were installed compared to 60 so far this time around.

In response to COVID, the program seen more of a need to create stronger neighborhoods.

Holmberg says Friday will be the last bed planted for the season but intends to triple their numbers to four to five beds a week come spring.
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