The Garden at AT&T Park Inspires New Growth in the Community

Field trip participants gathered together, posing for photo

Mission Neighborhood Centers field trip participants gather by the Garden

Children stretching in garden

Garden at AT&T Park Program Manager Sam Wilder leads youngsters in a “plant parts stretch”

Last winter, 46 preschoolers from Mission Neighborhood Centers entered AT&T Park in San Francisco for their first time, filled with excitement and awe. Mission Neighborhood Centers is a nonprofit that supports thousands of low-income families at 11 sites across San Francisco. These youngsters attend a center just two blocks from the ballpark, so the Bon Appétit team at the Garden at AT&T Park was especially excited to host them for a field trip.

Beginning with a lesson on edible plant parts, Program Manager Sam Wilder led the students in “plant parts stretches.” Following Sam’s lead, the children “grew” from seed to fruit with a different stretch for each of the six parts of the plant. As they stretched, they burst into laughter. Even the shy children started to giggle! Program Coordinator Nora Cata then led the kids in a garden exploration activity, where they divided into teams in search of tasty fruits and vegetables. Eventually, they donned (real) aprons and (imaginary) chef hats to make rainbow fruit kebabs for a healthy snack.

Since that first field trip, the Bon Appétit team has visited the Mission Bay Center monthly to share freshly picked fruits, vegetables, and herbs with the families. The teachers at Mission Neighborhood Centers have continued building on the lessons from the Garden visit by drawing pictures of edible plant parts, germinating fava beans in jars, and cooking healthy plant-based meals. “We wanted to start a new project,” said Mission Neighborhood Centers Family Services Specialist Ana Luis Sanchez. “After visiting [the Garden], we were inspired to develop more plant-based curriculum for our children.”

Sam (far right) and friends at the new community garden at Mission Neighborhood Center

During a parent-teacher conference, an idea to grow their own garden took root. Initially, Ana Luis was concerned about leading the project with limited gardening experience. So she reached out to her Bon Appétit friends for help. The team was more than happy to advise!

This spring, the families at Mission Neighborhood Centers started transforming their courtyard — once overgrown with weeds — into a beautiful edible garden. So far, they’ve pulled out invasive plants, added compost to the soil, and planted a bed of herbs. It won’t be long before fruits, vegetables, and trees take root as well.

“After our first planting I realized how important our new garden is,” said Ana Luis. “This was the first time many of our families had an opportunity to put their hands in soil. Now we have found a space to heal, connect, and build a stronger community.”

The name the families chose was really touching and filled Sam with honor and pride: Sam — a Family and Community Garden.

Submitted by Sam Wilder, Garden at AT&T Park Program Manager