From Rooftop to Table – The Salvation Army Uses New, Cutting-Edge Technology to Feed Seniors
Swiss chard, cucumbers and squash blossoms are among the crops growing in 30 new aeroponic towers, thanks to a partnership with AARP Illinois designed to promote healthy food options to local seniors in the Blue Island area.
The Aeroponic Tower Garden is an implementation of innovative advances in technology that brings new growing concepts and techniques to agriculture. The garden is a food production system designed for urban farms, rooftop gardens and commercial growing. Due to its vertical design, the system is space and energy efficient. It is able to grow 44 plants per tower.
Blue Island’s 30 towers equal up to 10 acres of conventional farmland. The food grown in the garden will be used for The Salvation Army’s Senior Lunch Program. Offered free of charge, more than 250 seniors participate in the program each week.
“This initiative is so futuristic and it has been a wonderful way for us to involve our seniors and to invest in a way to fight hunger in our community,” said Lt. Bersabe Vera, Corps Officer for The Salvation Army Crossgenerations Corps Community Center. “Our seniors have already been eating from the first fruit of this effort.”
Two-thirds of people age 60 plus who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps) are not getting the help that they need. Between 2001 and 2009, the number of people age 50 and older struggling with hunger rose by nearly 80 percent. Today, almost nine million older Americans are at risk of hunger.
On Wednesday, July 18, The Salvation Army Crossgenerations Corps Community Center celebrated the grand opening of the Aeroponic Tower Garden.
“I’m blessed to be able to work directly with the inventor Tim Blank,” said Joseph Martin, 69, a volunteer. “AARP and The Salvation Army have made this a dream come true for me. I feel like a father to this garden. The Salvation Army has a fantastic lunch program, where else can you get lunch for $2.” Joseph, the project’s lead senior volunteer, was presented with a bouquet and sash designating him as “Father of the Garden” at the grand opening ceremony.