Grant helps grow Greenville garden network

Beth Wall-Bassett, assistant professor of nutrition science, delivers lettuce grown in a Greenville community garden to the JOY Soup Kitchen. (Contributed photo)

 

A $15,000 grant from the Vidant Medical Center Foundation will support the Greenville Community Garden Network, a project directed by East Carolina University nutrition science professor Beth Wall-Bassett.

The garden network funds one hub garden and two satellite gardens in west Greenville. Produce from the gardens is pipelined into Greenville’s community shelter, soup kitchen, church programs and neighborhood school/afterschool programs. Area residents may receive produce as well.

“The ultimate hope is to strengthen the community one fruit or vegetable at a time– a feel good, win/win situation for everyone all the while growing more community gardens in Greenville,” Wall-Bassett said.

Wall-Bassett said food insecurity is an urgent public health concern facing nearly 14.6 percent of Americans. In Pitt County, 67 percent of the population is considered overweight or obese with 70 percent of those residing in the predominantly low-income west Greenville area.

The garden project connects residents with agricultural and health professionals, city officials, and economic and community development programs to promote good nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

“I see how community gardens are a wonderful vehicle to integrate public and private resources, improve the environment, create sustainable food distribution and educational systems, and improve health and well being especially among ‘at-risk’ groups, especially low-income, homeless, minority, children/ youth, American veterans, and people with disabilities,” she said.

The grant will assist in the purchase of seeds and materials as well as maintenance required to ensure abundant harvests in three existing gardens, while also supporting at least one new community garden. Existing gardens are located on Chestnut Street at the site of Greenville’s Dream Park, at the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center on Ward Street, and on flood buyout land on Douglas Avenue.

Earlier this year, Wall-Bassett, Greenville Harvest, and the City of Greenville Recreation and Parks Department received a grant from Nourishing North Carolina, a program funded by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation and the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association.  Wall-Bassett and others started the Dream Park garden as part of the Nourishing North Carolina initiative to support community gardens in all 100 counties in the state.

“We’re grateful that the Vidant Foundation and Nourishing North Carolina acknowledge and value the importance of linking health, agriculture, and the community, and we appreciate the backing they have provided,” Wall-Bassett said.

She noted other individuals are helping to launch the Greenville Community Garden Network, including Gary Fenton, director of Greenville’s Recreation and Parks Department; Lynne James, director of the Greenville Community Shelter; Merrill Flood, director of Greenville Community Development; Barbara Taft of Greenville’s JOY Soup Kitchen; Kerry Littlewood and Deborah Moody of the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center; and Joe Bassett, Greenville Harvest executive director and Dream Park garden manager.

“One by one, I see gardens spreading, with individuals and neighborhoods taking ownership,” said Fenton. “Hopefully, community gardens will become a permanent fixture in neighborhoods and involvement will be passed down from generation to generation.”

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For additional information, contact Wall-Bassett at wallbassett@ecu.edu.

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