Everyone deserves healthy meals; however, unfortunately, not everyone has access to fresh ingredients, especially those in underserved communities. A teenager named Lauren Schroeder realized this when she volunteered at a community food nonprofit at age 14. All vegetables and greens that were packed for families in need came in cans and boxes, rather than straight from the fields. Striving to make a change, Lauren set out to grow produce in her Iowa home so she could donate it to low-income families.
“I wanted people to get the nutrition they needed from fresh vegetables,” Lauren, who is now 17, told The Washington Post. This inspired her to start a garden in a half-acre area on her parents’ farm, hoping to grow lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and zucchini. While her mom was supportive, she made her aware of how much work it would take—still, the teenager was up for the challenge.
To kickstart her project, Lauren got a grant from the National FFA Organization, which promotes agricultural education, to pay for seeds and gardening supplies. Then, 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. Since the summers in Iowa are very hot and dry, she had to water them daily. Lauren added, “Every day, it took about two or three hours before or after softball practice.”
But all her efforts paid off. Her first harvest resulted in 40 pounds of produce that she then donated to eight local charities, including food banks, a soup kitchen, and a nursing home. “It was a really good feeling to know that anyone who wanted fresh vegetables would be able to get them,” Lauren said. “I knew that I wanted to keep going,”
That's why she relaunched her project for 2023, this time taking over a whole acre and expanding her veggie selection to include herbs, pumpkins, cauliflower, and jalapeños, among other greens. So far, she has spent over 1,000 hours working in the garden, which has resulted in 7,000 pounds of vegetables that she has happily donated.
Now that the harvest season has come to a close, the young woman is already making plans for next year. Lauren's new goal is to grown another 13,000 pounds of produce before she goes to college in 2025, bringing her donations up to 20,000 pounds. “I want to impact community members” she told KWQC. “Many people help you out, but it makes more difference when you help other people out. That’s what makes me most happy.”
Lauren Schroeder, a teenager from Iowa, set out to grow produce in her Iowa home so she could donate it to low-income families.
So far, she has spent over 1,000 hours working in the garden, which have resulted in 7,000 pounds of vegetables that she has happily donated.