The primary goal of Acta Non Verba is to create a safe and creative outdoor space for children and youth participating in the program. Within the model of garden-as-classroom, children will be encouraged to actively engage in a variety of activities designed to deepen their understanding of food production and strengthen their ties to the larger community. As each child moves through the program not only will they have an opportunity to mentor others, the complexity of projects and tasks will increase to reflect their age and skill set. For example, an entering kindergartener may spend time weeding, planting, and exploring basic seasonal concepts, while a graduating teen may be partially responsible for building a greenhouse, or managing a produce stand. It is our philosophy that with each skill or concept mastered, the growing child is empowered to attempt the next, and that this process is necessary in order to excel at future endeavors, academically and otherwise.
Acta Non Verba is a community-based and community-backed program; the interaction between participants and the larger community is integral to the mission of the program itself. That is: To provide fresh and affordable produce to an underserved population, and in doing so raise seed money for college funds for participating children and teens. Secondly, to provide something beyond a classroom education to children often denied any sort of extra-curricular activities due to lack of opportunities, resources, or both. The targeted participants are local low-income students, ages 5-17, interested in an outdoor work-study program for one or both growing seasons.
The model of ‘garden-as-classroom’ is one that has been successfully utilized by dozens of schools and
community spaces in the greater East Bay. With the arrival of each garden comes a message from the community that it values the time that its children spend outside. The lessons learned from the simple act of planting a seed and tending it may be less tangible than grammar or mathematics, but they are no less important. For children growing up in neighborhoods that have suffered from poverty, crime, and a history of institutionalized marginalization, these lessons are beyond important, they are essential.
While national consciousness regarding disease-linked dietary factors is on the rise, low-income populations continue to experience what is being termed as “health inequities”- defined as “material, social, gendered, racial, income, and other social and economic inequalities that are beyond the control of individuals and are therefore considered unfair and unjust.” According to the Alameda County Health Board, the life expectancy for African Americans is 7.7 years less than Whites, due in part to significantly elevated rates of coronary heart disease, diabetes type I and II, and stroke –all of which are directly linked to diet and nutrition. While studies have shown that diets rich in fresh produce are associated with reduced risks of several chronic diseases, 29% of Whites, 27% of Asian, and 17% of Latinos and African Americans in Alameda County reportedly consume the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. In populations lacking access to produce and proper health education, the presence of a community garden could very well affect the quality of community health. At Acta Non Verba we believe that access to local and affordable produce should be a right of the many, not a privilege of the few.