- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
The CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Program, administered through UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE), works with ethnic communities to transform their environment by implementing a community garden. UCCE created three gardens in partnership with community organizations in an equal number of neighborhoods located in this populous county.
In the first one, adults and minors dug and planted seeds and various vegetable plants in a community garden located in Riverside's popular Latino neighborhood. The vegetable garden has brought people in this low-resource community together to address healthy food access and learn about healthy eating and nutrition.
Gonzalo Rodríguez, an active member of the Community Settlement Association, said, "We planted pepper plants, tomatoes and little seeds. Vegetables are an excellent food for us, and another thing that keeps children off the streets and helps them understand the process while having fun taking care of their plants."
The garden in this thriving Latino community has grown over the years and is now a place for families to get together to celebrate healthy living. Educating food-insecure families of different ethnicity, the importance of having a vegetable garden, and how to grow your own food is a goal of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Program, and UCCE in Riverside County.
The second garden is located on what used to be a vacant lot in the Riverside Faith Temple under Pastor Duane Sims' supervision, who spoke about his vision. "I would like to see it a complete food force, a source of food that won't cost anybody anything, and something for people that don't have anything to do, a place to put their hands in the dirt and accomplish something."
These community gardens collaborate with several programs from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and partner with ethnic organizations to combat the poor eating habits that result in obesity, chronic diseases, and sometimes premature death.
"We're trying to get low-income families to eat more vegetables, and the best way to do this is to encourage them to plant their own fruits and vegetables in an orchard, and that's why we're promoting community gardens," said Chutima Ganthavorn, UCCE nutrition specialist in Riverside County.
Adela Torres and her children are involved in the project with the Community Settlement Association in Riverside. "It's beneficial for the children because they are fresh fruits or things that we can have at home," she said.
Ganthavorn reaffirmed the UCCE and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC's commitment to helping ethnic communities live a healthier diet. "We know that many people's diets today are fast food and soft drinks, and they are not consuming fruits and vegetables. We need to eat almost nine portions of fruits and vegetables a day, and most of us aren't getting close to that level. We are trying to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables because they contain many nutrients and many health benefits," she said.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
To plant the seed of healthful eating among youngsters, UC Cooperative Extension is giving away vegetable plants to Oakland families with school children.
On Thursday, May 7, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC staff will give tomato and basil seedlings to Oakland parents who come to pick up food for their children at West Oakland Middle School. The team will also be giving away plants again at Elmhurst United Middle School on May 14 and at Bret Hart Middle School on May 21. The plants are being donated by the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
“Gardening activities can help increase children's interest in eating fresh fruits and vegetables and improve their understanding of the health benefits and major nutrients found in the plants grown,” said Tuline Baykal, program supervisor of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC team in Alameda County.
UCCE Master Gardeners are donating 100 tomato plants in 1-gallon pots for the giveaway on Thursday. The seedlings are in paper bags with planting instructions in six languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Arabic.
The plants were part of the annual plant sale normally held in April to raise funds for the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County, which is funded primarily by revenue generated by the plant sale and donations. The sale, which attracts thousands of gardening enthusiasts, was canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
“We didn't want the plants to go to waste, we wanted to get them out into the community,” said Dawn Kooyumjian, UC Master Gardener Program coordinator.
“Rather than compost the plants at this time of heightened interest in home vegetable gardening and food security, we saw an opportunity to connect with Oakland Unified School District through the UC Master Gardeners of Alameda County School Garden Support Team, which supports gardens in Title 1 schools by mentoring teachers, parents and Food Corps volunteers.”
In past weeks, they gave away tomato plants at Sankofa Academy, which serves children in preschool through fifth grade.
UC Master Gardener volunteer Devra Laner coordinated with OUSD to distribute plants at the meal giveaways.
“Six to eight Oakland school gardens are being opened up this week,” Kooyumjian said. “UC Master Gardeners will be donating some tomato plants to these school gardens and FoodCorps Service members will be harvesting the garden produce to donate to food distribution centers.”
In addition to the plants being given away to Oakland families, the UC Master Gardener Program in Contra Costa County has donated 30,000 plants to 48 community and school gardens in the Bay Area. They also provided plants to local nurseries that could not keep up with the current demand for gardening supplies that COVID-19 has created.
“Typically, our plant sale takes in $85,000 or more. Because of COVID-19, we turned the Great Tomato Sale into what our gardeners call ‘Our Great Tomato Share' to support our underserved community,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension for the Bay Area.
- Author: Deepa Srivastava
- Editor: Suzanne Morikawa
EFNEP, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, partnered with UC Master Gardeners in Tulare County to celebrate EFNEP's 50th Anniversary! The UC Master Gardeners provided a one-hour workshop about container gardening for parents of young children. The parents had just completed the EFNEP Eat Smart•Be Active series at Conyer Elementary in Visalia, Calif.
Mariana Lopez, a UC nutrition educator who speaks English and Spanish, led the EFNEP classes from Jan. 30 to March 27, 2019. Seven of the 10 participants completed the series and graduated. The graduates expressed interest in participating in a gardening workshop. Deepa Srivastava, the UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor, reached out to Susan Gillison, the UC Master Gardener coordinator, to initiate this collaboration and Mariana coordinated the gardening workshop.
UC Master Gardeners provided full support
The Master Gardeners provided the materials such as soil, pots, basil seedlings and cilantro seeds. The guidance and knowledge received from Dana Young, the Master Gardener volunteer – also known as The Plant Lady – was very helpful! Parents participated with their children in the hands-on container gardening activity. Dana explained that container, or pot gardening, is the practice of growing plants in containers instead of planting in the ground. Herbs and other edible plants can be grown in containers. The participants also learned about healthy soil and gutter gardening.
Parents enthusiastically shared their experience from participating in this hands-on activity:
“Knowledge about gutter gardening was very helpful!”
“It was exciting to be a part of this activity, my child loved it!”
Indeed, the EFNEP and Master Gardener collaboration in Tulare County was successful. The Site Coordinator of Conyer Elementary expressed interest in holding additional meaningful workshops like these for parents during the school year!
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The UC 4-H Youth Development Program, UC Master Gardeners, UC Master Food Preservers and the California Naturalists are parts of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) that rely on the generous contributions of time and talent by thousands of volunteers.
During National Volunteer Month, UC ANR honors people who help us deliver our research-based information and educational experiences to residents throughout the state.
The UC 4-H Youth Development program has 6,557 youth volunteers and 14,068 adult volunteers.
4-H volunteers serve in many roles, such as club and project leaders, sharing research-based information in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; agriculture; healthy living; civic engagement and leadership. Their compassion, skills and knowledge are improving the lives of California youth and preparing them for success in adulthood marked by health and well-being, economic stability and civic engagement.
“We would like to thank our volunteers for their dedication, passion for the program and youth, and most of all for giving their time to help develop the next generation of true leaders,” said Shannon Horrillo, director of the Statewide 4-H Youth Development Program. “Our volunteers are the inspiration our state's youth need to thrive.”
The UC Master Gardener Program has trained 30,983 volunteers and currently has 6,116 active volunteers who serve as agents of change in their communities, connecting people to research-based information and sharing skills to help them grow food, protect the environment and meaningfully connect with nature.
UC Master Gardener volunteers staff telephone and email “hotlines,” where residents can get answers to their gardening questions. Many UC Master Gardener programs around the state manage demonstration gardens that serve as outdoor classrooms for presentations and hands-on workshops. UC Master Gardener volunteers can also be found throughout communities at farmers markets, libraries, and garden centers providing answers to questions about home gardening. These efforts have wide ranging impacts, helping people conserve water, reduce green waste, manage pests safely, grow food abundantly, and more.
“We are so grateful for our volunteers' generosity, commitment and passion to providing the public with information they can use to maintain their gardens that protect and support a healthier environment,” said Missy Gable, UC Master Gardener statewide director.
In 17 counties across California, 400 certified UC Master Food Preservers provide food preservation education to the public, ensuring a safe food supply, increasing food security and reducing food waste.
“Currently, a third of the world's food is wasted. Our Master Food Preserver volunteers make a difference at the household level in reducing food waste,” said Katie Panarella, director UC ANR's nutrition, family and consumer sciences program and policy. “To maintain public safety and avoid foodborne illness, the program teaches techniques for freezing, canning, drying and fermenting food safely.”
The California Naturalist program certifies volunteers to serve as informed stewards of California natural resources, docents of public lands, and citizen scientists gathering data about the natural world and wildlife. After completing 40 hours of training in ecology, geology, wildlife conservation, energy, environmental issues and other topics, most of the certified naturalists serve as volunteers with land conservancies, museums, gardens and organizations that deliver workforce education to young adults at the urban core. See the complete list of partners here. Since its inception in 2010, the program has certified 2,855 Naturalists.
“We have a diversity of groups who partner with UC ANR to offer this training program to their existing, new, or potential volunteers,” said Sabrina Drill, interim director of the California Naturalist Program. “The volunteers share the wonders of California's unique ecology by interpreting at parks and nature centers, and taking part in the study and stewardship of the state's natural resources.”