By Debbie Bernardo, Board Member, Edwards Street Fellowship Center
|Colleen Mestayer, a USM graduate student, volunteers to work with the ESFC community garden project.|
"Many of our food pantry clients have health issues," said Iva Brown, home garden coordinator at Edwards Street.
"Problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity are directly related to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. We believe that this gardening project will address both of these issues. Participants will reap vegetables from their plots, and they will reap the benefits of the exercise they get while tending their gardens."
Stewart's plot will consist of four 4 x 4 raised beds; the boxes have been set in place, she said. She will learn the next step when the class meets again. "The classes are going well and
are very informative," Stewart commented. Teacher, Debbie Jackson of the Pine Belt Chapter of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi covers basic gardening topics.
Participants in the home gardening project must have suitable space on their property for at least an 8 x 10 foot lot, must live within 10 miles of the Edwards Street food pantry location and must commit to gardening for a minimum of two years. As part of the project, they attend training sessions and are expected to care properly for their gardens once they are planted. Experienced gardeners help plan what to plant each season, and Edwards Street provides seeds, fertilizer and bedding plants, as well as someone to till the soil.
Edwards Street staff will document and evaluate all aspects of the gardening project. If the pilot project is successful, plans are to expand the program.