This past summer, CommonBond staff member Analuna Brambila directed the Teen Room Garden program at the Skyline Tower community in St. Paul. The two teen garden leaders she hired helped facilitate activities for their peers in the program’s community garden plot around gardening skills, environmental education, and healthy eating.
The teens grew a wide variety of vegetables and learned about different plants and types of food over the summer. They used the vegetables they grew for their cooking club throughout the summer – creating everything from homemade fettuccine alfredo to chocolate zucchini muffins.
Analuna’s favorite moment of the summer came when she saw the impact a garden project can have – outside of fostering new leadership skills and healthy food education – on teenagers. With some strong encouragement from staff, the two garden leaders finally agreed to try fresh cherry tomatoes off the vine. “They decided to try them at the same time,” Analuna said, “and after slowly chewing the tomatoes and gingerly swallowing, they both said ‘they’re not bad!’”
The next time the teens went into the garden, Analuna watched as they picked every fresh cherry tomato off the vines, popping them in their mouths as they went and encouraging their friends to join them in the feast. After that, every time Analuna visited the garden, she noticed there were never more than one or two ripe tomatoes on the vine. “After all, I did tell them to go and pick whenever they wanted!” she said.