What's Happening?

What's Happening?

Community Spotlight: Schenectady County Food Council member Rebekka Henriksen

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2023-blog-images/Zoller School Garden - Sign.jpg

In October, Schenectady schools gave students over 450 pounds of fresh produce at pop-up farmers markets. Kale, collard greens, corn, cauliflower, garlic, eggplant and more, all grown at local farms or gardens, were distributed free of cost. Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2023-blog-images/Rebekka Henriksen Photo.jpg

The farmers markets were the brainchild of Rebekka Henriksen, a Schenectady resident who has served as the school district’s first-ever farm-to-school project manager. Her job entails teaching children how to garden and getting fresh produce into city schools. She leads “harvest of the month” taste tests, community events, classroom lessons, maple sugaring and cider pressing, among other things.  

Henriksen is a member of the Schenectady County Food Council founded earlier this year. Spearheaded by The Schenectady Foundation, the council aims to build a healthier and more sustainable local food system. Henriksen believes her farm-to-school initiatives are a vital part of this larger project. 

“We’re a small city,” Henriksen said. “Over 10 percent of our population is school-age kids. So if we want to improve health outcomes and food access - we need to start with the kids.” 

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2023-blog-images/Zoller School Garden - Apple tree planting.jpgHenriksen’s efforts to make healthy, locally-grown food more accessible to Schenectady youth began years ago when her son was a student at Zoller Elementary School, and she created a school garden there. Today, there are gardens at all 15 city schools.  

“Kids who aren’t necessarily engaged in the classroom come out and do something in the garden, and they’re fully engaged,” Henriksen said. “They’re passionate. They’re excited.” 

Henriksen said she’s been food insecure and understands the value of being able to grow food. 

“When I was on SNAP, I got such a minimal amount of money to support my three kids, but I knew I could grow my own fresh produce,” she said. “At least I would have fresh tomatoes. I could grow fresh herbs to flavor the rice I got with my WIC check.”  

Henriksen grew up in Rochester, where her family grew vegetables in a small backyard garden. As a child, she visited her grandparents in Italy and gardened with them. “These are lifelong skills,” she said. Sharing her knowledge with the city’s youth helps build a more resilient community, she said. 

“This is just a drop, but I’m very much of the attitude that it’s the steady drip drip drip that carves the hole in the rock,” she said. “We’re reaching the children, and we’re reaching the community.” 

« Back to News