Phoenix-based non-profit organization Project Roots AZ, started by WNBA champion and coach Bridget Pettis, is celebrating one year of successful planting, reaping, and feeding in-need families across the state. Over the last year, the group has planted more than 200 trees, expanded its gardens at Agave Farms and Spaces of Opportunity, and added two water tanks and a complete drip system to its half-acre at Spaces.
Established in February 2020, the former Phoenix Mercury player and Chicago Sky coach, started Project Roots AZ with a big goal of providing access to nutritious food and promoting a healthier, more sustainable way of living for urban neighborhoods. Pettis draws from her Midwest gardening knowledge to educate and feed Arizona’s underserved population through local community gardens and mobile kitchen service.
“Growing up I learned first-hand that access to healthy foods is a luxury for many,” said Pettis. “Often the most vulnerable population is left to eat junk food or worse yet, go hungry. At Project Roots AZ, we focus on ways to educate the community about self-reliance and growing their own food. We also support the community in need by feeding them from our local community gardens and mobile kitchen service. With Project Roots AZ, we want to make a real difference and provide opportunities for anyone to get the fresh foods necessary to live a healthier life.”
For the past year, Project Roots AZ volunteers have grown fresh fruits and vegetables in its two community gardens located in Central and South Phoenix. Produce harvested by volunteers and other community gardens are then donated to local food banks and sold at farmer’s markets and through seasonal produce bag delivery services. Proceeds made from the sale of these products are then reinvested in Project Roots AZ to help more recipients.
In 2020, more than 200 produce bags were sold, 350 produce bags were donated to Local First and 3,300 produce boxes were provided to Friends of the Farm.
“I am humbled and grateful to see the fruits of our seeds planted in the community, by the community,” said Pettis. “We are a volunteer-based program and it takes a community to make a difference.”
Spring weather brings new opportunities to support Project Roots AZ, too. The organization is currently looking for volunteers to help grow flowers and herbs in the Spaces of Opportunity garden. Families and youngsters of all ages are encouraged to help plant, as well as weed, water and turn the soil. Each Saturday in February volunteers are needed.
“There are many important reasons to plant flowers in a vegetable garden,” added Pettis. “Not only do they add beauty, but they attract bees to pollinate. Gardening outside as a family is not only fun and rewarding, it’s a great time to get away from our devices and stress at work or home and be one with the Earth.”
Fruits and vegetables from Project Roots AZ can be found at farmer’s markets around town, including Uptown Farmer’s Market at Central and Bethany Home Rd. Wednesdays and Saturdays and Spaces of Opportunity Farmer’s Market at 1200 W. Vineyard Rd. Saturdays. Dates and times may vary, please check www.projectrootsAZ.org. Families can also purchase garden boxes for their homes with the new Project Roots AZ 2021 garden box program.
For more information about how to donate time or money to Project Roots AZ, visit https://www.projectrootsaz.org/.