Everyone has the right to a healthy diet. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to fresh produce, especially in low-income and underserved communities. A teenage girl named Lauren Schroeder realised this when she volunteered at a non-profit food community organisation at the age of 14. All the greens and greens she packed for her poor family came in cans and boxes rather than straight from the field. She wanted to make a difference, so Lauren started growing fruits and vegetables at her home in Iowa and donating them to low-income families. Lauren, now 17, told The Washington Post that she "wanted people to get the nutrients they need from fresh vegetables." This inspired her to start a half-acre vegetable garden on her parents' farm, hoping to grow lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and zucchini. Her mother supported her and made her understand how much work it would take, but still, this teenager rose to her challenge.
In order to start her project, Lauren received a grant from the National FFA Organisation, which promotes agricultural education, to fund all seeds and gardening supplies needed. That is when the real work began. “I did a lot of research online to find out what worked and what didn’t, what plants needed shade, which ones needed more water and when the best time was to harvest each crop,” she said. Lauren added, “Every day, it took about two or three hours before or after softball practice.”
Her efforts were worth it. Her first harvest yielded 40 pounds of fruits and vegetables, which she donated to eight local charities, including food banks, soup kitchens, and nursing homes. "It was really nice to know that anyone who wants fresh vegetables can get them," Lauren said. "I wanted to keep going." So she restarted her project for 2023, this time taking over an entire hectare and expanding her vegetable selection to include herbs, pumpkin, cauliflower, jalapenos and more. To date, she has worked more than 1,000 hours in the garden, resulting in 7,000 pounds of vegetables, which she was happy to donate.
The harvest season is over, so the young woman is already making plans for next year. Lauren's new goal is to grow a further 13,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables and raise her total to £20,000 by the time she goes to university in 2025. "I want to impact members of the community," she told KWQC. "A lot of people can help you, but helping others makes a big difference, and that's what makes me the most happy."