Media That Matters: Good Food

Inch By Inch: Providence Youth Gardens for Change

8:00 min
Director: Ilana Friendman
Producer: Ilana Friendman


More About Inch by Inch from Director Ilana Friedman

The story of Inch By Inch began four years ago in Providence, Rhode Island. Ilana was building a raised-bed vegetable garden with fellow Brown University students in their back yard. The experience connected Ilana to her New York City roots, where she used to garden with her father on their roof, and introduced her to questions of food quality and environmental issues like lead contamination.

She thought that maybe urban gardening could foster environmental stewardship, community-building, and meaningful, hands-on learning experiences for Providence youth if they had the chance to grow food, too. Ilana soon met a few of the people who work at the Southside Community Land Trust, a local organization that helps people grow food, and found out that at least a few classrooms in Providence already did take their learning outside to an urban garden. For 25 years, the Land Trust has been growing organic food bio-intensively for market. It protects growing space for several hundred community gardeners in the city. Through education programs, the Land Trust has supported numerous Providence teachers in implementing youth garden projects.

Ilana talked to some of these teachers and found out that her hypothesis was right. Students gained ownership over the urban environment, learned how to grow nutritious food, and built strong learning communities across cultural divides. Finally, her older sister, an elementary classroom teacher said, “Teachers need a movie that shows that they can do this. You’re creative. You’re smart. Go make the movie.”

In the spring of 2003, Ilana received the C.V. Starr National Service Fellowship, which provided just enough money to make her documentary and accompanying booklet. Over that growing season, she interviewed and filmed teachers and students in their urban gardens. She invited the teachers and a few other mentors to help decide which footage the movie should include to ensure that the end result would be as useful as possible.

Inch By Inch documents how educators in Providence, Rhode Island implement gardening programs with their students. Lessons emerge organically as garden settings help students address issues specific to their school. Building academic skills through hands-on learning, students also grow healthy food, develop literacy in a bilingual setting, make public art, and bridge the deaf and hearing communities. This video motivates educators to get growing with their youth. Since this movie was made, youth gardening in Providence has continued to develop. The Southside Community Land Trust has partnered with more public schools where afterschool and summer garden programs are flourishing. The gardens have created awareness throughout the school communities about the value of locally grown produce and the importance of inviting young people to enjoy nutritious foods. Moreover, teachers in Inch By Inch and Ilana’s mentors met in the editing process and have formed new collaborations. Educator and landscape architect Kurt Van Dexter will be teaching at the Learning Community Charter School next year with mentor Kath Connolly. He will be working with students to design and construct a youth garden. The educators and youth in Inch By Inch have created a legacy of healthy, safe, and community-centered learning spaces.


Media That Matters: Good Food, environment, health / health advocacy, youth
Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivative Works