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Free picnic celebrates new outdoor shelter and food forest at Unity Gardens

Unity Gardens continues to grow in its mission of increasing public access to healthy, locally grown foods.

Executive director Sara Stewart said that in April, the community gardening organization hired its first full-time employee, Hannah Scrafford, and received about $47,000 during its Day of Giving, part of the Give Local St. Joseph County charity event in May.

Tomorrow, Unity Gardens will celebrate the completion of a new picnic shelter and food forest at its hub garden, 3701 Prast Blvd. in South Bend, by inviting community members in for a free picnic. 

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, anyone can stop by and enjoy lunch catered by Indulgence Pastry Shop & Cafe. Offerings include turkey, ham and roast beef sandwiches on wheat and French rolls, pasta salad, cookies and an orange and strawberry spinach salad. 

Attendees may also take the opportunity to tour the garden, one of more than 40 community gardens sponsored by the group, or participate in children’s educational activities planned for the day.

The new shelter and food forest are part of the Unity Gardens’ Neighborhood Attraction project.

“(Food forest) is a global term referring to a style of growing perennial fruits and berries in a particular area,” Stewart said. “We are creating a space by the new shelter with fruit trees, bushes and more.”

The hub garden is located not far from the intersection of Ardmore Trail and Lincolnway West, an area populated by fast-food chains and less-than-healthy dining options.

Located directly across the street from the new pavilion are the Beacon Heights Apartments. Stewart said nearly 90 percent of the Section 8 property’s residents are children, almost all under the care of single parents who often ride public transportation.

Stewart said because there is no sheltered bus stop near the complex, she hopes residents will make use of the structure and, as a result,  feel more comfortable accessing other resources the garden offers.

“That location welcomes the neighborhood in more intentionally,” Stewart said.

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