'Hoop houses' grow fresh produce – and, perhaps, jobs – for low-income Baltimore teens.
Three portable greenhouses outside a Baltimore high school campus provide a model that could be repeated around the city, bringing locally grown food to schoolchildren and to poor neighborhoods where fresh produce is rare, urban farming advocates say.
The plastic-skinned hoop greenhouses are known as Hoop Village, and supporters gathered there recently to celebrate the harvest of its first crops — including arugula, kale, radish, Swiss chard, and spinach.
The greens will be provided to the cafeterias at some city elementary schools starting this winter. And students at the three schools on the Lake Clifton campus are helping to raise the food they'll be eating.
"I love my vegetables," Michelle Simpson, a Heritage High School senior, told visitors as she showed off the kale and cabbage she helped plant.
Hoop Village is a joint project of two local nonprofits, Safe Healing Foundation and Civic Works. It's also getting funding from the state and city, as well as several foundations and individual donors.
"It's great that food can come out of here and go straight into our cafeterias. Our young people are learning that food does not just come out of a can," says Nzinga Oneferua-El, the foundation's executive director and head of the Entrepreneur Training University, a community school on the Lake Clifton campus.