A new community garden is planned to complement University’s Sustainability Village as part of JCSU’s Growing Healthy Communities Program. The program includes:
- the development of an organic community garden
- hosting a Community Youth Health Day
- conducting community workshops for adults and youth on how to prepare foods to control and manage weight, as well as trainings for local residents and providers on how to utilize the National Library of Medicine Medline Plus database to locate health and wellness resources
JCSU students will be engaged throughout the delivery of program activities. Stipends are proposed for seven JCSU students per year, and one faculty member will be responsible for working with students and the community garden.
The Growing Healthy Communities Program spans a two-year period, with annual fieldtrips to a fully operational organic farm planned for residents and students. University departments and programs involved with the initiative include the biology and health and human performance departments, the James B. Duke Library and the Center of Excellence in Minority Health.
With the assistance of garden and greenhouse consultants, University faculty, staff, students and residents will conduct companion planting, rain harvesting, on-site composting and will construct a greenhouse. The community garden will be operated year-round, growing herbs, tomatoes, peppers, small melons, cucumber, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, squash, snap peas, beets, okra, carrots, kale, various berries and beans, as well as flowers. The expected annual yield is 1,200 to 1,500 pounds, and items from the garden will be given to JCSU faculty, staff and community residents.
For residents of the Northwest/Beatties Ford Road Corridor, the community garden will assist in mitigating the effects of living in a “food desert,” defined as areas with no full-service food stores selling fresh produce, dairy products and meats, as well as processed foods. According to the Community Food Assessment conducted by UNC-Charlotte’s Department of Public Health Sciences, Mecklenburg County Health Department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, there are 721 food stores in Mecklenburg County and only 186 are full-service food stores.
There is a direct connection between the lack of a neighborhood having a full-service store income and race. The non-full-service stores are located in predominantly minority, low-wealth neighborhoods or communities. Almost half the residents in Mecklenburg County do not have access to a full-service food store in their Census Block Group. Many of the neighborhoods in the proposed target area, Beatties Ford Road/Northwest Corridor, are in those identified Census Block Groups and have been identified as food deserts. According to the Community Food Assessment, 30 percent of the residents in the Beatties Ford Road/Northwest Corridor do not have access to full-service food stores. These residents are at a higher risk for premature death due to heart disease and diabetes.