Lighthouse Community School Agricultural Learning Center
Lighthouse Youth & Family Services, Inc. (LYFS), a United Way agency, was formed in 1969 and serves 5,000 children and families per year, providing a continuum of services to help them overcome obstacles that hinder self-sufficiency. All LYFS services are designed and implemented with insight into the needs and challenges of young minds and the traumatic experiences of many of the children it serves. LYFS services include emergency shelter, behavioral and psychiatric residential treatment, foster care and adoption, education, juvenile corrections, in-home services for families in crisis, and transitional living services for older homeless youth.
With Impact 100 funds, Lighthouse will (1) Build an Agricultural Learning Center, consisting of a solar greenhouse, containing aquaponics for raising fish and an experiential learning space, and (2) fund community programming and school curriculum development and training of LYFS staff in the operation and maintenance of the Center.
The Center will be connected geographically and programmatically to Lighthouse Community School (LCS), a charter school serving 65 students, ages 12 to 22, who are involved in the juvenile justice system or in foster care, group home or residential treatment, and have been suspended or expelled from a traditional school. The Center site, a vacant lot recently purchased by LYFS, is a block away from LCS in Madisonville. LCS has an outdoor Urban Agricultural program that includes growing 67 vegetable and herb beds, fruit trees, a chicken coop for 12 chickens, and a few fish, but its use is limited by weather and physical space. Sidestream Foundation, an independent nonprofit whose mission is to support fresh food production in food deserts, partners with LCS in the Urban Agricultural program. The new greenhouse will permit year-round fruit and vegetable farming and expansion of the fish farming program.
The Center will also house programs to benefit community groups, such as Madisonville 4-H, the only urban 4-H club in Ohio, the Madisonville Youth Community Council, and other LYFS programs. Community programs under consideration include basic gardening, cooking classes, composting, and trellising. Higher crop yields will increase income from the farm market run by the LCS and will add 5 paid positions for LCS students and other LYFS clients.
The Center will benefit Madisonville residents by making more healthy food available in this “food desert.” That benefit is further leveraged by an Ohio program known as “Produce Perks” which allows customers who receive government food subsidies to receive a $ for $ match when they use their funds to buy fruits and vegetables. The goals of the Center are to:
- Improve educational outcomes for LCS students by providing experiential learning and life-skills development, including cooperation, collaboration, responsibility and accountability,
- Improve future employment outcomes for LCS students and other LYFS program participants by providing them experience running a small business,
- Expand opportunities for youth to have positive and productive interaction with their community,
- Increase the annual production of fruits and vegetables to 10,000 pounds, giving better access to healthy food for LCS students (who can take produce home) and Madisonville residents.