Several communities in west Louisville are affected by limited resources and live in areas known as “food deserts,” low-income areas with a lack of nutritious food options including access to grocery stores, fresh produce and more.
In west Louisville areas like the California neighborhood, you often see corner stores instead of grocery stores, making options like chips and candy more accessible than fruits and vegetables.
Many children who aren’t exposed to fresh, healthy food at a young age, like broccoli, green beans and lettuce, might turn their nose up and refuse to eat them as they age. While most parents might say their kids are just picky eaters, this aversion to vegetables or other healthy foods could lead to a variety of health-related issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Now, Norton Children’s Prevention and Wellness plans to combat this lack of options and unhealthly lifestyle choices by restoring the California Community Center garden, located in California Park. The community center offers free wi-fi and a public computer lab equipped with five computers. The center also has several meeting rooms and a full-court gym.
Norton Children’s Public Relations Manager, Joe Hall, said, “the garden will be planted with dozens of potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs. Anyone in the community wanting fresh produce will have access to the garden.”
Norton Children’s Prevention and Wellness, also known as the Office of Child Advocacy, is an educational and outreach program that teaches healthy habits to children and educates parents and families on healthy lifestyle choices.
Nikki Boyd, Norton Children’s Health and Wellness programs Coordinator, collaborated with 2Not1 Fatherhood and Families, a west Louisville-based non-profit focused on the safety and well-being of children, to help revitalize the community garden.
2Not1 and the Norton Children’s Prevention and Wellness saw an opportunity to revitalize the garden next to the community center, located at 1600 W. Saint Catherine St. On Wednesday, a series of familiar fresh fruits and vegetables were planted such as jalapenos, tomatoes, potatoes and herbs.
Boyd said the garden, funded by Cigna Healthier Kids for Our Future, is a “symbol of hope and prosperity. All of the garden beds were heavily weeded out and overgrown and so we got busy.”
Norton Healthcare employees, community volunteers and the California Collaborative, a neighborhood group, came together to assist with the garden.
“It was over 80 degrees outside and people were out there helping us out, even people with health issues and it made the impact that much greater just to see us make this happen,” Boyd said.
The vegetables and fruits planted will take about 40 days to grow. Once fully grown, the fresh produce will be used in community cooking classes at the California Community Center starting in July, to teach families and children in the community about healthy lifestyle habits and recipes.
“In these classes, they will learn about nutrition and why it’s important, and they get a chance to cook and use the vegetables,” Boyd said. “They’re more likely to eat them because they made them.”
Families are encouraged to participate in cooking classes offered by Norton Children’s Prevention and Wellness, including Growing Cooks, a virtual class offered to teens ages 13-18 and Sprouting Gardeners, a fun and interactive farm-to-fork workshop.
The Sprouting Gardeners workshop will run from July 14 to Aug. 4 from 10 a.m, to 12 p.m. at Louisville Grows Healthy House, 1641 Portland Ave., for kids in third through fifth grade. More information and registration details for the classes can be found at nortonchildrens.com/prevention-wellness/classes-events.
Boyd said the garden is open to the community and everyone is encouraged to visit and use the fresh produce in their everyday cooking.
“It’s not just about growing vegetables. It’s a bigger approach to eating and being healthy,” Boyd said.
Reach Features Intern Genesis Malone at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: California Community Center receives new garden in west Louisville