This post was contributed by Meredith Ledlie Johnson, the Community Nutrition Coordinator for the Food Security Project in Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program.
Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program is proud to be a part of a new gardening program is Christiansburg, Virginia. The New River Valley Health District’s WIC office is building a new community garden next to its office (which also houses the Department of Social Services). The garden site is also next to the Free Clinic and a Carilion Family Clinic, which makes the garden’s planners hopeful that it will be easy to recruit garden participants from the target population of limited-resource families. Parts of Montgomery County, where Christiansburg is located, are food deserts. This garden is designed to increase the area’s access to fruits and vegetables, along with the knowledge of how to grow produce, basic nutrition, and the light exercise of gardening.
The garden is a partnership between the Family Nutrition Program, the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension, and the New River Valley WIC. This model is a great example of leverage the gardening and nutrition education offered by these programs, and could be easily replicated in other areas.
One of the most exciting aspects of the plans for the garden is to pilot a “garden prescription” program at the site. Based on Wholesome Wave’s “FVRx” program, the “garden prescription” will be given to patients at the surrounding clinics by participating doctors. The prescription will be designed to encourage patients to get in the involved in the garden in a variety of ways including working their own plot, participating in nutrition education and cooking demonstrations on site, or receiving part of the garden’s harvest. The prescription will also direct patients to other outlets for fresh fruits and vegetables, including the local farm stand and nearby farmer’s market (which has a SNAP matching program).
The hope for the site is that it will be elevated from a garden to a nutrition and health classroom, with intergenerational programming and ADA garden beds designed to make the site accessible to the whole community.
We are very excited about the promise of this program, and thank the AFSP for providing the networking opportunities that allowed the garden’s planners to meet. We will keep this blog informed of our challenges and successes!