In 2008, members of the Dawes School community began to address the issue of sustainability of their edible garden that had become a model for gardens under development at other Evanston elementary schools. Their strategy was to seek broad-based community support for the overall school garden movement, with an immediate goal of engaging District 65 as a partner and a longer term goal of funding stipends for Garden Coordinators.
Among the outcomes of early outreach efforts were:
- creation of the Evanston School Garden website by a parent of a former Dawes student
- development of a Quick Topic Message site for posting news, meeting announcements and Q & a conversations
- two 2009 public meetings focused on food policy, the local food economy, and ideas for building an umbrella organization to pursue the role of edible school gardens in Evanston
The resulting organization became SAGE, Schools Are Gardening in Evanston, which is now a program of the Evanston Environmental Association and overseen by the SAGE Steering Committee.
Early steps for SAGE included a Whole Foods 5% Day fundraiser, a presentation to the District 65 Wellness Council, a presentation to the District 65 School Board, and an advocacy meeting with District 65 Superintendent, Dr. Hardy Murphy who expressed positive support.
Along the way many community organizations have contributed input. Among them have been representatives from the Evanston Food Policy Council, the Talking Farm, the Wisdom Exchange, Keep Evanston Beautiful, the Evanston Department of Health, Nurture, and a host of individuals who have donated perspective, construction expertise, and financial support. Key to the present momentum of the School garden movement is the investment of school PTA's who have spearheaded fundraising as well as Evanston parents, along with other volunteers, who have devoted hundreds of hours to developing and teaching garden lessons in the growing number of school garden locations.
The elementary school edible garden movement continues to progress in its mission of promoting a healthy future for our children through introduction to growing, harvesting, and tasting fresh, locally grown produce. To date, SAGE has been instrumental in bringing attention to the relationships between a local food economy, community health, well being, and the environment. Ongoing success relies upon sustained community partnerships, continued positive collaboration with Evanston teachers and school administration, and active involvement of numerous parents.