German Immersion School yields a big win with Como Community Garden

By Rich Iwen

The Twin Cities German Immersion School this summer donated 180 pounds of fresh produce to Keystone Midway Food Shelf, the culmination of a school-community project more than a year in the making.

After German Immersion School Board chairperson Julie Alkatout initially applied in 2019 for a plot in the District 10 Council’s community garden, the community council this year granted the school space in its expanded garden at Almond Avenue and Ashbury Street.

In late May, TCGIS’ kindergarteners to eighth graders planted cucumber seeds and a variety of seedlings donated by TCGIS parent Becky Deimel. Three families per week tended to the school’s garden plot, carrying out planting, weeding, watering and harvesting over the course of the summer and fall.

Then came time for reaping. The school’s first harvest came July 20, with TCGIS officials ­delivering 15 pounds of cucumbers to Keystone Midway Food Shelf. Other produce included broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, cabbage and basil, all donated to Keystone.

The German Immersion School’s garden plot also included colorful strawflowers, dahlia and zinnia for pollinators. A strawberry plant gave the youngest gardeners a sweet treat as a reward for their efforts pulling weeds under the hot sun.

“Community is one of our selected school values, and I wanted to create a garden initiative, especially with the idea to donate all produce,” Alkatout said. “This is something positive we’ll always remember from the summer of 2020, which was so stressful and difficult in many ways.”

TCGIS families from across the metro area supported the gardening efforts. Stacy Flanigan, a German Immersion School parent who lives within a block from the school, said she loved the opportunity to tend the garden with her kids and show the importance of giving back to the community.

“All summer long my children and I enjoyed watching the garden grow, pulling weeds, spying on the pollinators, harvesting and bringing the harvesting to Keystone,” Flanigan said. “It was a great opportunity for us to donate our time and energy to the larger community all while playing in the dirt.”

Meanwhile, Keystone chief executive officer Mary McKeown lauded the German school-­community partnership. “These last few months have shown us how the need for food and other supportive services are rapidly accelerating in our community,” she said. “We are grateful for all of our community supporters and we can’t do this work without you.”

Twin Cities German Immersion School, a public charter institution in the Como neighborhood, serves about 600 students from across the Twin Cities. Founded in 2005, the school supports employing the German language in the course of teaching all subjects to students.

Rich Iwen is a member of the ­TCGIS School Board.

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