Grant Helps Gardens Grow

A couple of the tower gardens now at The Towers at Kuhio Park  PHOTO COURTESY KAISER PERMANENTE

A couple of the tower gardens now at The Towers at Kuhio Park

When residents of affordable housing complex The Towers at Kuhio Park are hungry, their most accessible options are not the healthiest.

“There are two manapua trucks on-site and a number of convenience stores within walking distance that all serve, for the most part, unhealthy food,” explains Anni Peterson, director of social services at Better Tomorrows, a nonprofit that provides support services for low-income residents in affordable housing communities like The Towers at Kuhio Park in cities throughout the country.

That’s part of the reason that Better Tomorrows wanted to install seven indoor community tower gardens throughout the complex.

The project was made possible thanks to a $16,200 grant from Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, and the towers now are growing lettuce, cucumber, kale, soybeans, basil and edible flowers.

“Nutritious food is a key building block of health,” says Kaiser’s director of community benefit and health policy Joy Barua. “The tower gardens improve access and familiarity with fresh produce and help the keiki and their families make healthier choices.”

The gardens’ yields are available to all residents through three separate programs, one of which includes a partnership with Kuhio Park’s Parents and Children Together’s Community Teen Program.

“The towers have only been in place a couple months, and already produce is being added to the healthy snacks provided to the teens, and fresh produce is being sent home for their families to enjoy,” Peterson says.

In the teen program, the gardens also provide a crash course in STEM — especially important here, Peterson says, as the school dropout rate among residents is high.

“The science needed to understand plant growth and pH balance; the technology and engineering that went into designing and producing the system; the math that charts plant gestation and growth, and later potential profits and margins from sales of goods and value-added food items — all of these are integral to the experiential learning built around the tower gardens,” Peterson says.

EAT FRESH Here’s a few of the vitamins and minerals associated with the fresh veggies being grown at The Towers at Kuhio Park.

LETTUCE: Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Folate, Iron, Potassium and Manganese

CUCUMBER: Vitamin A, Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Potassium

KALE: Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese




Applications are due to Honolulu Community Action Program, Inc. June 30 for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program designed to aid low-income households with their electric or gas bills.

Offered annually, the program assisted thousands of households on Oahu last year.

“All of the households that we served with the program are 150 percent or lower (below the poverty line), and so it really helps them financially,” says HCAP director of community services Robert Naniole. “The money that they save, they can use to buy other services for their families.”

For more information on the program and how to apply, visit