Gardens. Orchards. Cooking. Worms. All are ingredients to connecting people to good food, community and the environment, according to Emily Hampton, Executive Director, and Melissa Freiburger, Director of Programs, at Sunrise Project.

Sunrise Project is an effort to “empower people to live healthy, self-determined lives through engagement with food and the environment to build a socially just community.” It’s a significant challenge, as some people in Lawrence do not know much about where food comes from or how to prepare it to eat.

The non-profit organization is developing a center that includes workshop space, a community kitchen, and gardens. The group has also planted a small orchard. Community members are invited to enjoy the harvest by picking what they need to bring home.

Healthy Sprouts provides programming to child care centers and in-home daycares that includes gardens, food-based curriculum, family engagement and farm connections. For older children, Sunrise facilitates a cooking and gardening club at Cordley Elementary and a cooking club at New York Elementary. Sunrise is also building a worm bin to demonstrate vermicomposting, the process of composting using worms.

In addition to its outreach to young people, Sunrise Project has partnered with Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to develop a health equity model. Eight Community Coordinators were hired and trained in food systems, local policy and civic engagement. They then went out to gather everyday stories and experiences with food in Douglas County. Those stories were incorporated in the Food Plan that will inform future decisions in the county for years to come.

Ray, son of Lawrence Central Rotarian Audrey Coleman, stands with his sister Zea after the club meeting they attended with their mom. Ray was so inspired that he drew apples, cherries, and a tree while listening to the presentation.  The Sunrise Project hit its mark!