Spotlight: Corporate Giving Garden Network

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Northern Gardener.

Volunteers from the Twin Cities Corporate Garden Giving Network help plant a community garden at the Midway YMCA in St. Paul.

Volunteers from the Twin Cities Corporate Giving Garden Network help plant a community garden at the Midway YMCA in St. Paul.

The Twin Cities Corporate Giving Garden Network’s mission is to provide access to healthy food to feed hungry Minnesotans through a partnership of corporations with giving gardens in the Twin Cities area.

Susan Schuster, senior community relations consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, started the network in 2010 “in response to an interest in our Blue Cross garden,” she says.

When Susan asked MSHS to join the network last June as a nonprofit partner to serve as a resource, MSHS readily agreed. “There are so many synergies between MSHS’ mission and our group of corporations,” Susan says. The network’s core values of building community, encouraging physical activity and supporting healthy eating and wellness are well aligned with MSHS’ Garden-in-a-Box program.

MSHS staff had the opportunity to see Susan’s hands-on approach to community involvement last June at the Midway YMCA’s teaching giving garden. The Y received 49 of MSHS’ garden box kits so that neighborhood children could learn to grow healthy food.

The members of the giving garden network meet twice a year to report on the successes and challenges of their corporate gardens and share their methods of planting on corporate property. For example, one plants in straw bales because the campus’ soil is contaminated by creosote.

“There are so many benefits to growing,” says Susan. “We all have learned so much from each other; everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner.”

—Diane Duvall