Gardens help people to grow their own food and research shows people who participate in school and community gardens tend to be more physically active, eat more fruits and vegetables and experience lower rates of food insecurity.
In FY20, Alabama SNAP-Ed educators supported establishment, reinvigoration, or sustainability of 28 school and community gardens making fresh vegetables available to almost 6,830 Alabama residents. SNAP-Ed educators played a vital role in connecting community organizations so that garden harvests were distributed to places such as food pantries, soup kitchens, school cafeterias, or summer feeding sites serving those who need it most.
The role of an Alabama SNAP-Ed educator, like Dominguez Hurry, in Alabama counties like Bullock and Macon, is to promote the value of gardening for nutrition and food access. Educators engage the community in the garden by leading and supporting opportunities to try new foods and inspire healthy behaviors. They also help to connect people in need with donated or gleaned produce.
In a partnership with Tuskegee University Extension, Bullock County High School, and the Bullock County Extension Office, SNAP-Ed educator Hurry helped establish a school garden to teach nutrition education and supply those in the county with fresh vegetables. There are 2 harvests a year, both in the fall. The featured crops in the garden are kale and collard greens. The 1st harvest in fall 2019 was sent home with the students and the faculty of the high school. The 2nd harvest went to the Bullock County Department of Human Resources, which gave it away to families in need around the county.
In Macon County, SNAP-Ed educators work with the George Washington Carver Elementary school to allow students to plant about 2,500 strawberries. The students learn the proper way to plant, water, and protect against pests. Between the two schools, nearly 250 children participated in the school gardens.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple classes came to the garden to pick the strawberries. During the spring of 2020, Parents were invited to pick strawberries as a family at staggered times during the pandemic.
“Families came out and practiced social distancing, wore a mask, and picked the strawberries until they were all gone,” Hurry said.
In FY20, gardens supported by SNAP-Ed produced more than 7,820 pounds of produce valued at $12,707. This equated to 35,929 servings of vegetables — enough vegetables for 14,371 adults to meet the USDA daily recommendations.
The Framework Indicators used include ST7 Organizational Partnerships, MT1 Healthy Eating, MT2 Food Resource Management, and MT6 Physical Activity and Reduced Sedentary Behavior.
For more information, contact Sondra Parmer, Alabama Extension program leader for nutrition programs at (334) 844-2231 or email. To find more success stories about SNAP-Ed educators, visit LiveWellAlabama.com.