Interlochen Center for the Arts to supply nearby food pantry with farm-to-table organic produce year-round

Building on Interlochen's institution-wide sustainability efforts, Arts Academy students will help plant and harvest organic fruits and vegetables that will be donated to the food pantry at Redeemer Lutheran Church of Interlochen.

Beginning this summer, hundreds of pounds of handpicked organic fruit and vegetables grown on the campus of Interlochen Center for the Arts will be donated to the food pantry at Redeemer Lutheran Church of Interlochen.

The partnership is made possible by the addition of two new hoop houses to the R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden, a complex on the Interlochen campus where Arts Academy students study botany, agriculture, and ecology while growing fresh produce for the campus community. One-hundred percent of the produce grown this summer—including tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, microgreens, peppers, and more—will be donated to Redeemer's food pantry. Once Interlochen Arts Academy resumes classes in the fall, over 50 Arts Academy students will assist with planting, tending, and harvesting.

"We are thrilled to give back to our local community and to engage our students in this important work," said Emily Umbarger, sustainability manager and instructor of agricultural sciences at Interlochen Arts Academy. "It's a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about food accessibility and security, poverty and hunger, and appreciating what you have. Our goal is not only to teach them about growing methods, but also the importance of ongoing, meaningful, and connected community service."

During the academic year, half of the produce from the new hoop houses will go to Redeemer's pantry, and half will go to Interlochen's Stone Cafeteria. Since Redeemer's food pantry opened in 1984, it has served over 100,000 people. Most of its produce comes from grocery stores—fruits and vegetables that can no longer be sold because they are approaching their expiration dates.

"Many of our customers are accustomed to canned fruits and vegetables," said Rev. Mark Berlin, Redeemer's senior pastor. "Being able to offer fresh produce will support the health and wellness of many people in our community. We are deeply appreciative of this partnership."

In the coming weeks, Redeemer's food bank plans to introduce resources on how to prepare fresh produce for healthy meals.

Since 2016, when Interlochen's Board of Trustees pledged to create an environmentally friendly and sustainable campus, Interlochen has implemented a variety of sustainability initiatives. The R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden, which opened in 2017, has expanded over the years to encompass an 800-square-foot botanical laboratory and greenhouse powered by solar and heated with geothermal energy; an 800-foot hoop house focused on research and experimentation; a chicken coop; an aquaponics unit; an educational apiary with four beehives; a student-designed and installed fruit yard with an orchard, brambles, and a vineyard; and an outdoor community kitchen with a stone bread oven. Under Umbarger's leadership, the complex has been designated Certified Naturally Grown, a Monarch Waystation, a National Wildlife Federation Certified Schoolyard Habitat, and a Michigan Green School. It has also received several certifications from the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.

Umbarger has collaborated with colleagues across campus on several sustainability efforts, including the construction of a 100-foot composting facility and the installation of single-stream recycling; zero-waste dining products; water-bottle filling stations; low-flow shower heads, toilets, and sinks; and a high-efficiency dishwashing system.

In 2019, Interlochen Arts Academy was the only school in the state of Michigan to receive the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon School Award, which recognizes institutions that reduce their environmental impact, improve the health of their community members, and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.

The new hoop houses were made possible by the Allen Foundation and a grant from the American Heart Association's Teaching Gardens Network Grant Program. A grant from High Mowing provided organic seeds.

About Interlochen Arts Academy
Interlochen Arts Academy is the nation's premier fine arts boarding high school, where emerging artists from around the world transform passion and potential into purpose. Guided by distinguished artists, students pursue pre-professional training in music, dance, theatre, visual arts, creative writing, and film alongside a robust academic curriculum, preparing them to excel in the arts and beyond. Nestled in scenic northwest Michigan, the Academy has been a leader in arts education since 1962 and has produced 46 Presidential Scholars in the Arts, more than any other high school in the country. To learn more, visit academy.interlochen.org. Follow Interlochen on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at @interlochenarts.

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