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Raised garden beds help connect more people to food

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Flanner House added raised garden beds to its farm to increase accessibility for older adults and anyone else who has difficulty bending over to work the land.

The organization partnered with the Home Depot Foundation, which had volunteers help build the garden beds over three days from April 27-29.

The project is part of a broader “food justice system,” said Nick Selm, the farm director at Flanner House, which includes a greenhouse, farm and bodega. People can learn everything from how to grow and harvest food to how to prepare and distribute the food.

Garden beds that are raised off of the ground make it easier for older adults, as well anyone who uses a wheelchair or otherwise has mobility issues, to get involved.

“It sounds so simple, but repeated bending down or prolonged bending down to weed or to plant or to harvest can be a huge barrier,” Selm said.

Flanner House Executive Director Brandon Cosby said the project is about community engagement.

“It’s in our DNA,” he said of the 123-year-old organization. “From the very beginning, making sure that there were access points for healthy and affordable food options was always historically a part of who we were.”

Flanner House serves the northwest side, which represents one of the largest food desert areas in Indianapolis. Double 8 Foods, a locally based grocer, closed its four stores in 2015, including one about a half mile north of Flanner House on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

Flanner House started its farm four years ago. Part of the goal, aside from feeding people, is to help connect the community to the food-growing process in a more meaningful way than what can be attained by sifting through aisles at a grocery store.

“There’s something emancipatory about growing and eating your own food,” Selm said.

Erroll Carter was one of the people who volunteered to help April 29. He shoveled mulch through a persistent sprinkle in the morning.

“I like the outdoors,” he said as he waited for another wheelbarrow to show up at his pile.

Carter, 60, lives on the northeast side and works part time in the lawn and garden section at the Walmart on North Keystone Avenue. He learned about the opportunity to volunteer while watching the news.

Carter said he doesn’t have a garden or grow his own food but would like to soon.

“I’m getting familiar with the process,” he said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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