Story by Crystal Hayduk, photos by Kelly Stoker
Members of Girl Scout Cadette Troop 40076, under the leadership of Kelly Stoker and Kathy Pantolin, served the Chelsea community and learned about hunger as part of their community project to earn a Silver Award, the highest award available to Girl Scouts through eighth grade.
The girls began planning their project about a year ago.
“Mrs. Pantolin suggested learning more about gardening,” said troop member Ashlyn Hodel.
“From there, the project expanded,” said Julia Kause, another scout. “We focused on hunger in the United States and locally, and food scarcity. We grew a garden to donate food to Faith in Action (FIA) and cooked a meal.”
Using money earned from annual Girl Scout product sales – including cookies, candy, nuts and magazines – the girls rented one square patch in the Chelsea Community Garden, located behind Timbertown. They obtained plant starts for three kinds of potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, basil, and some flowers. “We also grew strawberries because the plants were already in the patch,” said Stoker.
The girls commenced planting in mid-May. They tended the garden throughout the summer, and by the end of August harvest, they had made two deliveries of fresh produce to FIA.
Through organic gardening, the scouts learned to appreciate the hard labor of agriculture workers and the importance of food safety.
In addition to donating food, the girls learned how to prepare a healthy meal on a budget. Stoker said that using the cookbook, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day by Leanne Brown, the scouts prepared (from scratch) chocolate zucchini muffins, pierogi, kale salad with homemade dressing, curried butternut squash soup, creamy zucchini fettuccine, and lemon verbena blueberry punch. “It was a group project and everyone had a job to do,” said Stoker.
Troop members even learned about flower arranging, thanks to contributions from other gardeners. “Gardeners are generous people,” said Stoker. “There was a lot of sharing of advice, food, and flowers.”
In October, the troop visited FIA to learn about the food pantry. They pretended to shop to feed a family of four for a week.
Brooklyn “B.K.” Ngyen said they learned that food pantry items are usually limited to foods that others donate to them. “You can only get some things,” she said. “There’s not a large supply of dairy, meat, fruit, or vegetables.”
And, when Nancy Paul, FIA’s executive director, checked the food that the girls had chosen for the imaginary family, it turned out there wasn’t enough food to last a week.
The visit to FIA made an impact on the scouts. Brooklyn Nichols said, “When I go shopping with my family, I think more now about what is necessary for the week instead of wanting to buy things that won’t benefit me.”
“You realize just how much food gets wasted,” said Emma Hedding.
Julia Kause said, “Hunger isn’t just somewhere else. It’s here in Chelsea, too.”
Stoker agreed. “When we went to FIA, there was a table piled with children’s winter coats, and every single one already had been marked to belong to someone in our own community – someone who wouldn’t otherwise have a warm coat. It really makes you think.”
Paul appreciated the troop’s donations of fresh produce and talking with them about local hunger. “It was obvious the girls had done thoughtful work on food: what it takes to eat healthy, how much food, and of course money, is needed on a daily basis to not be hungry,” she said.
The troop collectively worked more than 300 hours to earn their Silver Award, even though only 50 hours are required.