Provides access to fruit orchards and food
|SU Land-Grant Campus Nutrition Educator Kiyana Kelly, Extension Associate Ellen McKnight and Growing Healthy Initiative Coordinator Stephanie Elwood pose with a class from Clinton Elementary School after planting a fruit orchard. |
Baton Rouge, La. – Spring has sprung and the entire nutrition education staff is in full stride! Both Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) staff have begun planting fruit orchards in food deserts, across the state of Louisiana.
Our Cooperative Extension model demonstrates the cultivation of organic partnerships with people from public, private and grass roots community organizations through outreach. These partnerships allow us to assess the needs of the community. From parish to parish, fresh food access was the common sentiment shared. In many cases, our clientele had the desire to make healthy food selections, but often times had limited to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Further research using the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Access Research Atlas revealed that the majority of our direct and indirect nutrition education sites were located in urban and rural food deserts.
One of our major partnerships is with public schools. We partner with several schools in the state by providing a series of nutrition education lessons to students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. In keeping with the SU Land-Grant Campus’s mission and our federal nutrition program objectives, we provide this direct and indirect nutrition education using a policy, systems and environmental change (PSE) approach. Policy, systems and environmental change (PSE) approaches seek to go beyond programming and into the systems that create the structures, in which our program clientele live, work and play. The Growing Healthy initiative is doing just that. At no cost to the schools, our staff provides a series of nutrition education lessons, and the implementation of a vegetable garden or fruit orchard. We provide all materials and trees on the planting day. Based on the growing climate in the region, schools can select from peach, satsuma, fig, pecan, lemon or apple trees. Blackberry, blueberry and raspberry bushes are also available for planting. Once our staff has completed the implementation, the garden or orchard becomes the property of the schools, which provides a continuous supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Plainly speaking, the Growing Healthy initiative is nutrition education in action,” says Stephanie Elwood, Growing Healthy Initiative Coordinator. It utilizes components of permaculture to ensure the production of low maintenance and sustainable fresh fruit and vegetables. Past experiences indicate that campus fruit orchards are an excellent way to increase fresh food access and encourage healthier lifestyle changes among students, faculty and staff. The most recent orchards have been planted at Bastrop High School, Clinton Elementary, George Washington Carver Elementary and The Boys and Girl Club of Lafayette. To date 47 fruit trees and 23 bushes have been planted. This initiative is implemented by our Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Agents, SNAP-Ed, EFNEP Nutrition Educators, and Extension Associates. Currently, we have 25 parcels yielding fruit and vegetables at our direct nutrition education sites. Our goal is to double that number by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.
For more information about the Land-Grant Campus’s signature nutrition education programs, contact us at 225-771-6236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.