VISTA Guest Posts: From Food Desert to Food Paradise
I will get things done for America- to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
After studying Kinesiology and Public Health undergrad, I was excited to apply everything I had learned. One thing I learned in school really struck a cord with me: over 23 million United States residents live in food deserts-low-income areas that are more than one mile away from supermarkets in urban communities and 10 miles away in a rural community.
This limited access to healthy foods is a barrier tohealthy eating, which unfortunately results in these communities having the highest risk for obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County’s Aberdeen is located in a food desert neighborhood with access to just a corner store that offers cheap, high-calorie, nutrient-poor options, and lacks
affordable healthy options ultimately leading to poor health.
We, as AmeriCorps VISTAs, are in a unique position to fix these needs. Community gardens are a great way to meet the needs of a food desert because they enhance nutrition and physical activity and promote the role of public health in improving quality of life. I’ve been very fortunate to work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County to spearhead coordination of the Aberdeen Harvest of Hope Garden- a new community garden project in Aberdeen.
Our project is unique, because it expands on the idea of a traditional community garden, by creating a full-scale learning lab to support nutrition and fitness. When youth have the opportunity to plant and harvest fruits and vegetables they get firsthand lessons about nutrition and come to understand the importance of agriculture. In addition to the Community Garden and Outdoor Learning Lab, we will have a teaching garden that will be “owned and operated” by Club members.
I am so excited to see what our garden will look like this time, next year. In the short term, our project will transform an unused lot into a functional, new, and safe community green space. The garden will increase community participation and increase the amount of food available in the Aberdeen neighborhood. It is our hope that long-term, the garden will help improve he health of the community.
Through increased opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating as well as the nutrition and wellness classes to be provided to our Club members, the incidence of Obesity and Type II Diabetes should decrease, as well as their respective prevalence, especially among children. Additionally, long-term, there will be increased social capital in the neighborhood.