Unity Garden founder nominated for Best of Humankind award

NOW: Unity Garden founder nominated for Best of Humankind award

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Unity Gardens is a local non-profit organization founded by Sara Stewart in 2008 to offer fresh, locally grown food to everyone in the surrounding communities. Now, for that work, she's been nominated for an award sponsored by USA Today.

“The reason this is such a gift for Unity Gardens is because we get to share ourselves," said Stewart. "‘What have we done here? What have we captured that makes this all possible?’”

Stewart began with one garden; now there are sixty of them all over Michiana. Its flagship location, located on Prast Boulevard in South Bend, offers seven acres of space with fresh grown vegetables and animals, giving people a place to gather, promote wellness and learn more about the food they eat and grow.

“It’s all about relationships," said Stewart. "The food is good, but when you make a welcoming place and develop relationships with each other, all of a sudden they make it part of their life because it’s fun and nurturing and wonderful, and people start feeling better.”

Now, Sara Stewart is being recognized nationally for her work with the Unity Gardens.

“I got an email saying that ‘you’ve been nominated for this award,’” she said.

A Humankind Award from USA Today in the Earthkind category-- awarded to those who promote social and environmental change. The winner will receive $1000, but Steward said the money isn't important. 

“I’m passionate about Unity Gardens and this unique model that in South Bend or the Michiana area, we’re all familiar with," she said. "But it’s nowhere else. It’s unprecedented, it’s outrageous to think that you can grow free food for everyone and that they’ll share it and everyone will be kind. But in twelve years, that’s what happened. Our dream is to make sure that not just South Bend, Indiana, or Mishawaka or Granger or Plymouth, have this dignified, free food opportunity, but that other communities can replicate it too.”

Stewart hopes that even if she is just nominated for the award, the Unity Gardens idea will be used to help communities all over the country.

“If other communities can do this and start adopting the best practices of Unity Gardens, whether it’s our horticulture classes, our nutrition classes, the free-pick gardens—all of that together creates this really strong wellness model," she said. "And as a nurse, as a parent, and my purpose in life- that’s really what this is all about, being able to share that this broadly.”

The winner of the Best of Humankind Award will be announced on December 9th. More information on the award and how to cast your vote can be found at: https://usatventures.com/awards/humankind/

More information on the Unity Gardens can be found on their website at: https://www.theunitygardens.org/

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