Update February 2019: This program is no longer active but information here can be still be valuable.
In this five part series, Community Commons highlights the successes of the Ohio Department of Health’s Creating Healthy Communities (CHC) program. CHC aims to increase health and prevent chronic diseases in 16 Ohio counties through policy, system, and environmental changes.
Related CHC Articles:
- Improving Food Pantry Options
- Ohio Transforms School Food
- National Resources Lead to Active Communities in Ohio
- Obesity Prevention Starts Early in Ohio
The importance of having access to locally produced, healthy food touches every segment of society. Ohio CHC reached out to several diverse populations to engage them in growing their own community gardens, and thus growing the seeds of good health.
Local Churches Lay the Groundwork to Healthy Food
Soil, water and dedication are said to make a garden grow, but having these resources all in one place can be difficult. Allen County turned to local churches to find the right formula for success.
After a presentation by a Cincinnati urban farms coordinator, The Elm Street Church of the Brethren took up the call and created ten raised-bed gardens. With helpful advice from the rural Salem Mennonite Church, members produced 167 pounds of produce and shared their bounty with the local food pantry.
Summer school students at The Future Church of Lima received a gardening education as they raised a good portion of their lunchtime food. They were also able to share their harvest with church members and the soup kitchen.
Allen County plans to reach out to more local churches and faith-based organizations to increase the number of community gardens in their area.
Urban Farming- The New Design of Social Sustainability
Cincinnati CHC is turning urban blight into beautiful, productive community farms that supply healthy food to vulnerable populations. In 2012, The Urban Farming Program yielded over 5,000 pounds of produce at six urban farm projects within the city.
Their unregulated distribution policy means the farms do not have fencing or barriers so that all community members are free to harvest what they need when they want it.
“I love to see kids who were eating hot fries and other processed foods out of a bag asking to get food from our garden. I do not say no. ‘Ms. Lauri, we are hungry. Can we go get some mustard greens?’ Would anyone say no to that?” -Lauri Aultman, Winton Hills CRC Assistant Director
The program is looking to expand by identifying areas for new farms, growing partnerships and working toward system changes that encourage the long-term sustainability of the farms.
Youth Action for a Healthy Community
With a county ranking of 85th out of 88 in Ohio in 2012, Megis County has a number of challenges when it comes to increasing the health of residents. A large low-income population combined with limited access to healthy foods makes regular consumption of fruits and vegetables difficult for most residents.
By reaching out to the Megis County Juvenile Court Community Diversion program, two local CHC garden projects became a reality and produced over 500 pounds of healthy food. The intense work required to grow a successful garden allowed local youth to learn work and life skills while also giving back to the community.
Pounds of Produce and Bushels of Benefits through Gardening
Richland County knows that all of society benefits when community gardens flourish. Their Raising Richland Community Garden Network hosts an annual summit aimed at increasing the number of gardens and providing education and resources for success.
Featuring topics like edible landscapes, plant diagnostics, and garden-to-table food safety, the summit also has sessions that cater specifically to those that want to grow gardens in neighborhoods, churches, or schools.
Watch some sessions from the 2013 summit here.
Video provided by Raising Richland partner, the North End Community Improvement Collaborative.
Additional help for gardeners comes from the Richland County Foundation, which supplies grant funding for the creation of new gardens or the expansion of existing ones.
The combination of these resources has helped increase the number of community gardens in Richland County from 17 to 26 in 2012 and the coalition has over 280 members in their network.
CHC is funded through the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.