First lady Michelle Obama set a powerful example in 2009 – just two months after the inauguration – when she planted a working vegetable garden at the White House. Since then she has hosted numerous groups of students from local elementary schools that help plant the seeds and participate in harvest.
As a partner of the Together Counts™ program, we understand how having a garden and participating in growing your food gives kids (and grown-ups) a deeper sense of where food comes from, the effort that is needed to maintain plentiful crops, the importance of the soil and an appreciation for rain and sunshine alike. As a bonus, family gardening can help burn a few calories to support a healthy, active lifestyle.
Of course, not everyone has land suitable for planting a garden, but the growing movement of community gardens is providing more options.
Community gardens can be widely defined as any piece of land gardened by a group of people and can be urban, suburban, or rural. They can grow flowers, vegetables, herbs and other plants for soil preservation or beatification. Community gardens can be located at schools, hospitals, or in neighborhoods. Best of all, community gardens grow communities.
One example of the development of a community garden is in Hershey, PA. A number of Hershey area employers including The Hershey Company joined together to provide a site (on the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center campus) for community residents to garden.
The garden serves a number of needs in the community. It offers residents who simply don’t have space, a plot for planting and resources for those new to gardening and how to get started. Sections of the garden are also dedicated for those with special needs and other areas have been donated to those in need in the community.
The Hershey garden also features a section just for children to obtain hands-on experience gardening and growing foods. The goal, not unlike Mrs. Obama’s plan, is to improve nutrition for families through better access to fresh vegetables and other edible plants.
Community gardens help build relationships, promote physical activity and even reduce family food budgets all while preserving green space and beautifying neighborhoods or areas of a community.
For more information about community gardens, their benefits and how to start one: http://communitygarden.org/index.php.
Community garden plots, ready for planting!
Debra Miller, PhD is Director of Public Policy Development, Nutrition, Health & Food Safety at The Hershey Company, a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. The Hershey Company believes that well-being is a matter of balance, the ability to make informed choices and enjoying the goodness of every day moments.
If you’d like to read more about ways to get busy outside, check out these other Together Counts articles.