Working class women in St. Louis have a new place to go to find help advancing their life both personally and professionally, including when it comes to their diet.
Rung for Women is now open in Fox Park, helping to improve the lives of women across the city. Alongside professional development, participating women will also have access to ready-to-eat meals cooked in-house by the program's chef, cooking demonstrations and even fresh produce thanks to Rung's urban farm.
"Food and wellness and exercise are core values and core components of our program that is really focused on helping women to elevate their lives, both personally and professionally," says Rung president Leslie Gill. "I am super excited about our food offerings and our food philosophy, because it is just so important to the overall wellness for women and families."
Chef John Womick, formerly of the now-shuttered L'Ecole Culinaire culinary school, is on deck to prepare the meals and help teach the women in the program about cooking and proper nutrition. Rung's campus has both a commercial kitchen and a demonstration kitchen, so members will be able to get the best of both worlds.
Paired with the culinary teachings will be lessons on how members can grow their own sustainable food from farm manager Ro Kicker. In addition to providing food for Rung, produce grown on the urban farm will also be distributed to other local organizations working to relieve hunger.
"We have a lot of different growing styles and techniques available for people to see, which supports members because we'll be doing classes and things like that to help members learn how to grow their own food for those that are interested," Kicker says.
The farm will have both classic farm rows combined with raised garden beds closer to the building, which will also be wheelchair-accessible to make sure everyone in the program can learn about the growing efforts. The raised beds will primarily be taken care of by learning members, and the rows will often be taken care of by Kicker, volunteers and interns with Urban Harvest STL, a local organization that helped design the Rung program and the farm.
Rung will also have a chicken coop – nicknamed internally The Hens of Rung – and a butterfly tunnel, as well as a food forest full of fruit trees that will be ready for harvest a few years down the road. A greenhouse will also help to expand the ways that the team can grow fresh produce.
"I'm really excited to try out all of these different things," Kicker says.
Kicker hopes that each member can lay out their own individual goals, and that by the end of their time working on the farm they will achieve those benchmarks.
"To me, it's all about, especially when I'll be working with Rung members, I'd like to get to chat with them one-on-one to find out what their actual learning goals are, and be able to navigate some of those activities around their learning goals," Kicker says. "I call it the importance of the 'and here's why.' Sharing what we're doing and why we're doing it."
Applications are closed for Rung’s first cohort, which the organization will welcome in March, but those interested in the program can learn more on Rung's website. For those interested in volunteering with Rung, in the garden or otherwise, more information is available on Rung's volunteer page.
Editor's note: This post has been update to clarify when Rung will welcome it's first cohort of members.
Rung for Women, rungforwomen.org