- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
“The topic of addressing food access through community and school gardens has never been more relevant than in today's COVID and post-COVID environment,” said Kamal Khaira, director of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program, at the November ANR town hall. “Today, we are highlighting work from Riverside County where our CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE team has made significant progress and contributions in fostering garden-enhanced nutrition education in three distinct communities – two urban settings and one rural Native American reservation.”
“This is one important aspect of our community work which brings all ages together in low-resource environments to learn, build and accomplish – delivering avenues for health and wellness both through work with the soil but also through connecting and sharing the harvested food together.”
Jackie Barahona, nutrition educator for CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Riverside County, continued the presentation.
“As you can see from the video, our work with communities in planning and developing community gardens is one that enhances our overall CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE objectives of supporting health and wellness,” Barahona said.
“In 2013 the Riverside team began work with the Community Settlement Association in Riverside through a community grant that funded garden reinvigoration. During the pandemic, over 50 pounds of harvested produce from the garden have been donated to the local food pantry. Garden Club activities occurs twice a month and enhances educational work in the community.
“Our work with Riverside Faith Temple began in 2019. Food harvested from Riverside Faith Temple community garden is donated to parishioners and community members. Our team has continued to host monthly virtual garden club meetings in partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program in Riverside County. We plan to resume in-person garden activities this winter.
“Since 2013 CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Riverside has fostered a growing relationship with the Torres Martinez Tribal Community in Thermal. Based on this long-standing relationship, in 2020 the CFHL, UCCE Riverside team worked with a group of three youth and six seniors from the Tribal community to establish a garden at their senior center. This community garden brought elders and youth together to plant and harvest fresh vegetables and herbs. As an intergenerational project, it was a great success. Since that time our team, with support from the CFHL State Office, has assisted Tribal Leadership in establishing a Community Wellness Committee, which consists of youth, elders, and tribal council members. We are working with this committee to inspire initiatives that will lead to sustained health outcomes through physical activity, garden-enhanced nutrition education, direct education and other activities.
“Altogether, learning experiences in the garden provide many benefits – physical activity, an area to socialize with others in the neighborhood, and a reinforcement of what we teach about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables being part of daily meals. Due to the garden work, our nutrition lessons are not only enhanced but harvested fresh food is available for community tables.”
For more information about the program, read “UCCE building oasis of health in ethnic urban communities” at https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=46096.