INDIANAPOLIS – A school “Giving Garden” is feeding a near north side community in the middle of a food desert.

Much of the manpower behind St. Monica Catholic School’s giving garden is by kids under the age of 12. The students spend part of their school day, nights and weekends growing crops that go directly to feeding families in the area who are struggling to find their next meal.

“This in the middle of a food desert. I really wanted the community to have fresh organic food for the kids,” said Melanie Kuester, the director of Giving Garden.

The Giving Garden started several years ago as just a small plot but has now grown into an outdoor classroom and a space big enough to grow 25 different varieties of fruits and vegetables. 

“I planted some plants, like cucumbers,” said fifth grader Robyn Almonte. “I found a slug and I named him Sluggy.”

“I usually water stuff in the garden,” said eighth grader Gianna Lilla. “I also take out weeds and volunteer on the weekends.”

The produce goes to local food pantries, churches and families of students at the school. It also helps fight food insecurity and provides teaching opportunities for students.

“We go out there and get our science books out,” said Lori Yesh, a fifth grade teacher at St. Monica Catholic.

“I like gardening because when I grow plants, they grow super huge,” Almonte said. “But when my mom grows it, they grow super tiny. So that’s why I help her garden.”

Teachers at the school say it’s a great way to get kids out of the classroom and learn about the world around them. The garden is also a way for students to earn volunteer hours.

The garden grows between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds of food a year! This small garden makes a big difference in the lives of community members on the near northside.