SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In an aging neighborhood in the northeast portion of the city, Sioux Falls Thrive is working in the Laura B. Anderson Riverside neighborhood.
Today’s project? Planting seeds at Laura B. Anderson Elementary in a set of newly refurbished garden planters.
“We are promoting a project that brings neighbors together to support the kids in this neighborhood in terms of healthy food and access to out-of-school care and affordable housing,” said Michelle Erpenbach, President of Sioux Falls Thrive. “Today we’ve had a gracious gift from Eagle Construction that rebuilt these [planting] boxes, and today we’ll be planting them.”
The planters, now refurbished, have been around for at least 10 years, according to Erpenbach. In the past, the planters had been used as a bit of a science project, but this year, the boxes will have a slightly different purpose.
“What we’re going to do this year is really make it a food production garden,” Erpenbach said. This year, the boxes will grow rhubarb, peppers, and oh so many tomatoes. The students of the community will be tasked with tending these boxes, watering, weeding and harvesting the produce.
Food security is an issue that Erpenbach touched on while discussing the impact of this community garden project. She believes that the garden boxes, just 4 in front of the school, have the potential to produce several hundred pounds of food for the neighborhood.
“You’re standing right smack in the middle of a food desert in Sioux Falls,” said Erpenbach. “It is more than a mile from this location to a traditional grocery store — it’s way more than that to someplace that would be more affordable.”
The neighborhood surrounding the elementary school tends to be low-income, where access to reliable transportation isn’t always guaranteed for residents. “When we talk food desert, we’re talking distance and access.”
Despite these disadvantages, Erpenbach says the neighborhood itself is an asset. “The neighborhood has really taken it over,” she said. “The kids are excited to be involved with this because it’s their neighborhood.”
Planting of the boxes kicked off around 5 p.m. Tuesdays, along with activities inside and outside the school.