Literally building peace from the ground up has brought AFSC’s Los Angeles peace education program special recognition. The program is a recipient of the 2010 Subaru of America Healthy Sprouts Award,  one of only 30 selected from over 800 applications.

 The award acknowledges the Friends Peace Gardens at two Los Angeles high schools for their “clearly stated goals, organized planning for hunger and nutrition education programs, and purposeful use of your garden harvest,” wrote the grant committee.  “We are delighted to have this opportunity to support your efforts.”

Youth from two low-income neighborhoods who take AFSC’s peace education classes created the two Friends Peace Gardens.  The gardens are a community building project, and along the way, the young people have learned life and leadership skills while strengthening their self-confidence as social change agents. Along with AFSC interns and volunteers, they successfully turned unused lots into bountiful and beautiful gardens.

In summer 2009 at Central High School in Culver City, AFSC staff began working on conflict resolution and violence prevention. The students decided on gardens as a project and obtained permission from the necessary officials. They enthusiastically cleared the lot; germinated and planted seeds, built outdoor tables and benches, installed a drip irrigation system, and harvested their first crop. Today, they grow fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, beans, lettuce, onions, squash, cucumbers, and kale, for their families.

Students and teachers at the second school, Central High at All Peoples’ Christian Center in South Los Angeles, heard about the work and asked to join the peace education program and to build a garden. Their efforts began in this past summer, led by AFSC’s Crystal Gonzalez and supported by volunteers. In a community lacking easy access to healthy foods, the garden is a powerful model of peace building, developing young leaders and inspiring community action.

As Christina Woo, college student and AFSC intern, said, “The best part is that this transformation has to do with the students. They are the ones putting their time and effort into this project, cultivating a new sense of community. While planting the seeds to grow food in their new garden, they also have planted seeds of hope for themselves, their neighborhood, and their futures.”

For more on the 2010 Healthy Sprouts Awards, jointly presented by Subaru and the National Gardening Association, visit http://www.kidsgardening.com/2010healthysproutswinners.asp.