Hindman Settlement School fights food insecurity with local events | News

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Recently, the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County has been reviving the school’s initiative to combat regional food insecurity.

Kelsey Cloonan, community agriculture support coordinator at the  Hindman Settlement School, said the school’s initiative is currently three faceted, including the “Roots and Rows: HSS’s Community Garden Project,” the Knott County Farmer’s Market and school gardens and in-school programming.

One of the ways the school is fighting local food insecurity is through the “Roots and Rows: HSS’s Community Garden Project.” The mission of this project, said Cloonan, is to help revive the practice of raising a home garden by providing free education and resources for program participants who are interested in growing and preserving their own food.

“Food insecurity has long been a concern for residents of Eastern Kentucky, but with the greater health risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing inflation and supply chain issues, we need to take direct action in increasing our communities’ access to fresh, whole, locally produced food. In collaboration with the Knott County Extension Office and the Knott County Farmers Market, we’ll offer monthly free workshops, hands on learning and services that directly help our participants in their gardens,” said Cloonan.

The first “Roots and Rows: HSS’s Community Garden Project” event was held on Feb. 15 at the Hindman Settlement School. During the event, school officials handed out free seeds for all attendees thanks to over 2,000 donated packets of seeds they received this past month. There were also swaps for any seed savers who bring saved seeds, and an opportunity to record the stories of your family’s heirloom seeds for our future Community Seed Library and Archive. The Hindman Settlement School, in partnership with the Knott County Extension Office, also offered a Garden Planning workshop where participants could receive one-on-one guidance from Cloonan and Chad Conway, the school’s local extension agent.

HSS is also utilizing the Knott County Farmer’s Market to combat food insecurity, said Cloonan.

“As the market manager, I’m focusing this year on greatly expanding our Knott County Farmer’s Market. We were awarded a grant from County Agricultural Investment Program that provided over $5,000 to help us purchase much needed materials to support our vendors and create a convenient and accessible space,” said Cloonan. “We also need to expand our vendor base, so I’m focusing on offering plenty of opportunities for folks to learn about how easy it is to become a vendor and the huge impact selling home-produced goods can have on our community.”

The school’s first Farmers Market 101 session will be 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Hindman Settlement School.

The third method HSS is using to fight regional food insecurity is the use of school gardens and in-school programming. Cloonan said the Hindman Settlement School has submitted two grants to start gardens at Emmalena Elementary in Knott County and R.W. Combs Elementary in Perry County.

The garden in Emmalena, she said, will focus on providing students with agricultural and entrepreneurial experience as they grow flowers and produce to sell at the Knott County Farmer’s Market. The garden at R.W. Combs will center on creating an intergenerational learning space where senior, adult and youth members of the R.W. school community will engage in traditional Central Appalachian agricultural and food-ways practices to preserve and build upon the rich food-ways knowledge of the area, she said.

“We are starting small with a couple gardens, but hope to implement garden-based learning in various schools throughout the area. Eventually building a program that places educators into local schools to regularly teach about gardening and nutrition in both the classroom and school garden. This part of the initiative is of particular importance as getting young people excited about growing their own food can lead them to feel empowered to make healthy decisions when it comes to their food,” said Cloonan.

For more information, contact Cloonan’s office at, (606) 785-5475.

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