The Council of Peoples Organization is a non-profit social service organization that serves the South Asian and Muslim community in Brooklyn, NY. On top of many other services, COPO runs a weekly Halal food pantry that provides food to approximately 1,200 individuals each month. Much of what the pantry serves is fresh produce, which results in a substantial amount of food waste. Noticing this, we created an initiative to make the pantry more sustainable by establishing a large-scale composting system in the large concrete lot behind our agency. Additionally, we developed a plan to build a community garden that will merge our Senior Center and Pre-K with other members of the community, providing classes on sustainable gardening and composting practices. The community garden and composting programs will increase practices centered around environmental awareness, decreasing senior isolation, improving mental health, encouraging positive communication, and emphasizing teambuilding. Given that most members of our community speak Urdu, Bengali, Arabic, and Uzbek, we will ensure that all volunteers and teachers speak at least one of these languages fluently. Further, all produce from the garden will consist of culturally-relevant foods that are commonly used by members of our community.
Our project will create a culturally-relevant community garden and composting system that will enable our Halal food pantry to be sustainable while providing services to our seniors, preschoolers, and other community members. We have already begun cleaning out the concrete lot behind our building, which has been used as a dumping ground for trash. By the end of May, we hope to begin construction on our composting area and lifted beds, using grant funding from programs like Roots and Shoots, the Citizens Committee of New York, and Fiskars Green Thumb Project. At this point, we will also begin providing classes to our seniors and preschoolers, starting with seed germination and basic composting practices. We also look to compost at least 1,000 pounds of food waste by the middle of June, which would be ready to integrate By the end of the summer, we aim to have the composting system fully-functional and the garden producing Zone 7 Hardiness fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs that are free to take home by any program participants or volunteers. For this project, outreach will be done by communicating with the parents of our preschoolers' parents, the seniors, and other members of the agency and community. We will use flyers, Facebook, Instagram, and email. Classes will be held at least once a week.