Now through the end of August, the Hamilton County Health Department is accepting applications from local neighborhoods and organizations for a grant to begin growing and sustaining teaching gardens.
The grants are offered through the Health Department’s Step ONE (Optimize with Nutrition and Exercise) program. Applicants should be ready to launch a garden next spring
Step ONE teaching gardens are designed to demonstrate the importance of food choices for overall health.
The combination of distance to a healthy food outlet and poverty create what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls a “food desert.” According to USDA and Census Bureau data, about 72,000 people in Chattanooga and Hamilton County live in food deserts, with about 23,000 (32 percent) of those people living in poverty. People who live in food deserts tend to suffer from more chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The presence of fresh, healthy food choices, along with regular physical activity, is critical in reversing these trends.
“The Step ONE garden program seeks to change the relationship we have with food,” says Step ONE Program Manager John Bilderback. “When people are involved in the process of preparing, planting, maintaining, and harvesting gardens, research shows they are more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables they produce. By changing our food habits, we are building a healthier county.”
Since December 2008, Step ONE has funded 41 teaching gardens around Hamilton County. Any organization, including neighborhood associations, churches, schools, businesses, and daycares, may apply. The grants are used to purchase supplies and building materials.
“The teaching gardens are teaching more than just good nutrition, they are teaching core values such as unity, cooperation, relationship building, and leadership to people of all ages,” says Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. “When these values take root in the garden, they take root in our community.”
For more information about partnering with Step ONE, or to apply for the teaching garden grants, visit hcstep1.org or call (423) 209-8090.
Source: Hamilton County Health Department