ADRA Sint Maarten Director Silvanico Pauletta loads the locally produced organic greens for transportation to the packing location to go towards the first 100 families who will benefit from a four-month project to provide healthy food and promote kitchen gardens across communities on the island. [Photo: ADRA St. Maarten]

August 26, 2020 | St. Croix, US Virgin Island | NCC Staff and IAD News Staff

One hundred families in Sint Maarten were the initial beneficiaries of organically grown produce thanks to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Sint Maarten or ADRA.SX. The initiative was a prelude to the launch of a new community project to promote kitchen gardens among needy families. The 100 bags of fresh produce were grown by SXM Fisheries N.V., a local organic vegetable and fruit farm on the island that ADRA has partnered with to provide healthy food to families.

Families received a bag of produce on Jul. 28, with various organic items such as lettuce, bok choy, swiss chard, collard greens, breadfruit, plantain, radish, squash, cantaloupe and carambola, among others. Every month until October, 100 different families will receive the bags of produce.

Everonique Levenstone, Assistant Logistic Coordinator for ADRA Sint Maarten packs bags with organic fresh produce for families, July 28, 2020. [Photo: ADRA Sint Maarten]

“ADRA is seeking to develop sustainable, healthy lifestyle initiatives that will promote kitchen gardening and poverty alleviation,” said Silvanico Pauletta, ADRA Sint Maarten director. The initiative was part of a four-month project that will also provide selected families with what has been coined as “100 Grow Bag” where vulnerable families who have insufficient income can support a healthy eating habit, he explained.

Each family will receive a portion of seeds, and seedlings, a plant, and starter soil each month to motivate and inspire recipients to grow their own fruit and vegetables. The project will also offer continuous guidance for growing the produce, said Pauletta.

The concept came together based on a brainstorm session with ADRA Aruba and ADRA Curaçao, nearby entities within the Dutch Caribbean islands, he said.

Carlita Smikle, a church member in St. Maarten delivers a bag of organic produce during the distribution initiative on July 28, 2020. [Photo: ADRA St. Maarten]

“The concept has special appeal to us in ADRA Sint Maarten as we believe that promoting kitchen gardens will help develop the community resilience on an island state where nearly all fresh produce is imported,” Pauletta said.

The distribution was done in coordination with the Adventist Community Services Federation on the island which oversaw the distribution of bags to nine Adventist churches on the islands and the Sint Maarten Seventh-day Adventist School where families in the surrounding community were selected as part of the project.

The ADRA Grow Bag project is the first project for ADRA Sint Maarten since it became an official foundation in June.

Jacqueline Barry contributed to this report.

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