Booker T. Washington HS Project to Feed the Community Gets $2 Million in Funding


An ambitious and expansive engineering and agricultural project at Houston ISD’s Booker T. Washington High School to sustainably produce food for the surrounding community has landed $2 million in federal and state funding, officials said Friday.

The project, created to help solve the problem of food insecurity and climate change, includes plans to build a 10,000 square foot agricultural center containing two multi-unit greenhouses. Building on previous work, engineering and agriculture students at the school estimate that they will be able to produce and distribute around 16,000 containers of greens each month.

“Growing and distributing food locally will significantly reduce our carbon footprint on the planet,” said Maria Velazquez, a student at the school, during a presentation in the school auditorium on Friday.

The community surrounding the school has been designated a food desert, Velazquez said. By creating a sustainable source of fresh food in the neighborhood, fewer resources will be used to bring in food, she added.

Students from the school helped create a community garden with a rainwater harvesting system in May 2021. That garden produced about 800 containers of produce, Velazquez said.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, announced Friday that she had secured $1 million in federal funding for the project. His office did not specify the source of the funding, but called it the largest direct funding of its kind ever given to a single public school in the country.

In addition to the federal money, state officials said they secured an additional $1 million for the school.

“It’s important that we recognize in the energy capital of training young people who understand what is called climate change and giving them the incentives and encouragement to do something that travels and follows the legacy of Booker T. Washington. “Jackson Lee said. the crowd in the school auditorium, made up of students, staff, community members, alumni and elected officials.

The high school students said they plan to help design and build up to five wind turbines on campus as part of the Growing Farm and Football Field Power Project. In 2020, the school’s engineering students built a turbine.

The school has collaborated with students in Zimbabwe in this effort, sharing knowledge so that the school can attempt to build its own energy source.

The project will also include a community park, a plaza to display a statue of Washington, the school’s namesake on campus, and an outdoor amphitheater.

“The vision is to enhance our students as future leaders…in order to have a positive overall impact,” said Daniel Buffard, senior at the school and head of engineering for the project.

Jackson Lee reminded the audience of the legacy of Washington, who was born a slave in 1856, and fought for black Americans’ right to education after the Civil War, and his work to create a more equitable nation. Lee also invoked the history of the school itself, which was founded in 1893 as “Colored High,” the only black high school in the city at the time.

The school’s student body is currently 48% black and 49% Hispanic, according to district data.

“I believe history should be lived,” Jackson Lee said. “You have to remember that. He should be honored. Not yesterday, but today. I believe that those of you who are students here, as you walk through these halls, I want to be reminded of your story.

State Representative Jarvis Johnson told the students there was “a movement underway to destroy legacies.”

“It’s very important that we keep the legacies alive and that’s what this statue and this project is all about,” he said to cheers from the crowd. “Unfortunately, in this country, the reason children are no longer engaged is that they no longer see themselves in the picture of education. This project is going to make sure our kids stay engaged in the picture because they’re going to see someone who looks like them and that legacy will continue.

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