Beth Verrelli has lived in Fairview, a diverse neighborhood in Anchorage, Alaska, for more than 25 years. She used to see local children eating raspberries off the bushes in her alleyway.
“That made me interested in bringing local homegrown food to kids that often don’t have access to fresh foods and produce,” she said.
She applied for a grant from the local community council to improve the Fairview Park, including installing an edible garden. Cities of Service AmeriCorps VISTA member Catherine Kemp helped her get the project off the ground as part of the Resilience AmeriCorps program in Anchorage.
“The idea that edible plants could be planted around a community in the greenspace is a concept that I find to be common sense but also very exciting,” Beth said.
She and more than thirty citizen volunteers planted apple trees, blueberries, strawberries, and currants in the park purchased with funds from Cities of Service. Her project was one of several sites doing similar volunteer-led work around the city with support from Cities of Service to help residents produce food locally.
“It’s fun to watch kids learn what real food looks like and what it looks like when it’s growing,” she said. “Lots of kids don’t know what different foods look like in the real world verses what comes in plastic wrap in the store.”