More than 800 people from all walks of life converged on Mitchell Elementary School on May Day for the fourth annual Green Heart Project Spring Harvest Dinner.
The feast was free for Mitchell students and $3 for parents. Others paid $20 and helped raise funds for the project.
The menu, created by the Burke High School Culinary Arts program, included a summer salad of baby kale, caramelized Vidalia onions, fresh strawberries and a lemon honey vinaigrette; a bean medley with purple, green and yellow wax beans; radishes; a spicy summer slaw with cabbage, carrots and jalapenos; and a curried sweet potato salad, among other dishes.
Some of the fresh vegetables and herbs, including kale, beans, radish and dill, came from the school garden. Most of the food was provided by Limehouse Produce.
The dinner also included barbecue chicken and a whole hog pork by well-known local caterer Jamie Westendorff.
Besides the food, the grounds of Mitchell buzzed with activity. Students played games. The Lowcountry Food Bank brought its new "mobile farmer's market" to the event and handed out free, fresh produce to 200 families in need. Charleston Moves provided bike parking and encouraged people to bike or walk to the event.
Drew Harrison, executive director of Green Heart, says the event was the largest so far in the nonprofit's five-year history and represented a collaboration of the community in helping support the project's goals.
Harrison added the event was held earlier than in past years because organizers wanted to have it before student volunteers at the College of Charleston left town.
Green Heart was founded in 2009 as a small garden at Mitchell, a Title 1 public school, with the intention of reconnecting students with fresh produce. It quickly evolved to be a 12,000-square-foot urban farm, 35-tree fruit orchard and an outdoor classroom, teaching lessons in respect, teamwork, accountability and entrepreneurship, as well as a place to bring people together.
In 2013, the project took the same model to Zucker Middle School in North Charleston, which has a 22,000-square-foot garden and citrus orchard with 25 trees. Green Heart plans to hold a Harvest Luncheon at Zucker sometime in June.
Green Heart plans to add another school to the mix in the coming school year.
Mitchell Elementary Principal Deborah J. Smith says the Harvest Dinner was a success and representative of a "wonderful partnership for our school."
"They come in and teach weekly lessons to third- through sixth-graders on how to plant, cultivate and harvest a garden. This gives students a chance to see, if they want to go into a farming career, how it can work in an urban setting," says Smith.
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.
Drew Harrison, executive director of the Green Harvest Project, talked about the collaborations with Mitchell Elementary in the past year.×
Many volunteers with the Green Heart Project at Mitchell Elementary are students from the College of Charleston.×
Mitchell Elementary third-grade teacher Melissa Nehez showed her appreciation of the Green Heart Project with face paint.×