Shivani Nookala, 17, of Golden Valley, Minn., a junior at Breck School, started an indoor, vertical community garden at her school and leads a group of 10 students who work on the garden every day to provide fresh produce for a local food shelf. While Shivanis homeroom class was volunteering at the FOCUS Minnesota food shelf, her teacher led discussions about hunger and mentioned that community gardening can play an important role in fighting hunger. This moment sparked a call to action within me, said Shivani. I thought our school could play a major part in donating not just food, but fresh produce, to those in need.
Shivani embarked on a yearlong independent study of community gardening, conducting research, networking with individuals and organizations across the country, and hosting a cross-community learning event. Then she persuaded her school to let her install an indoor garden with support and advice from a teacher, a gardening specialist and a couple of nonprofit organizations. Shivani recruited 10 fellow students to help her maintain the garden and donate its produce to feed the hungry. They are now assisting community gardens in other locations, and helping the city of Golden Valley start one. Community gardening involves people directly making a change, and having the ability to do so regardless of their abilities and background, said Shivani.