Fighting Obesity Through Community Gardens

Community garden in Dallas. | Image from Green Dallas

Produce gardens, sponsored by the Dallas County Health and Human Services, are providing a way for communities most at risk to fight obesity.

Having a local source for fresh fruits and vegetables is essential to solving the problem of “food deserts,” specific areas in Dallas which lack access to nutritious food.

Dallas Health Services is providing county-issued grants to fund the building of these gardens, many of which are in or near elementary schools. The program’s end goal is to give children an experience with new, healthier food options and lower the obesity rates in some Dallas zip codes.

In general, U.S. News ranks the health of Dallas residents as average compared to the rest of the country. However, according to the same analysis, Dallas only has 0.5 local food outlets per 100k people, compared to the national average of 4.3 per 100k people. Dallas also has above-average rates of diabetes and obesity.

Dallas nonprofit Grow Garden Grow seeks to change those statistics. The teacher-led program is spearheading the movement for fresher food, building the mini-gardens in Dallas elementary schools.

John Neely Bryan Elementary School is the latest school to have a Grow Garden Grow community produce garden installed. John Neely Bryan school is located in zip code 75216, one of the five most vulnerable to obesity and associated health issues. Other zip codes include 75210, 75215, 75217, and 75241.

Kim Aman, a teacher and the director of Grow Garden Grow, is deeply involved in the community gardens they develop. “The health of everything — people, the environment, the community…can all come from a garden,” Aman said. She added that students at the school are eager to take on most of the work needed to maintain the garden.

So far, six community gardens have been planted in Dallas. Using the grants provided by the Dallas County Health and Human Services, an additional eight gardens are already planned for next year.

Kids at the schools with these community gardens are encouraged to try the foods grown in the garden. Some of the fruits and vegetables are donated to food banks.

“You can’t teach people to eat healthy with fruits and vegetables without providing access,” says Woldu Ameneshoa, program manager for the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services.

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