Community Garden Grows Healthy Eating Habits

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COLUMBIA - Across the Columbia Boone County Health Department parking lot, and through the strong smell of fresh tar, lies a 25-plot garden of nearly-ripe fruits and vegetables. Some plants are unidentifiable to the untrained eye while others dangle greenish yellow peppers and bright red tomatoes. 

The Unite 4 Health Community Garden at the Columbia Boone County Health department celebrated its first year this week. The collaborative efforts of PedNet — through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, University of Missouri Extension, Columbia Boone County Department of Public Health, Columbia Public Works, Missouri Foundation for Health, Columbia Community Garden Coalition, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and community members gave life to the garden.

According to health educator Maureen Coy, the idea for the garden sprouted from a question: "How can a piece of unused land be used to help promote health?" Coy reflected. 

Coy and others answered that question by providing food grown in the garden to mothers in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) supplemental nutrition program. Excess produce is put in baskets and offered to WIC programs participants.

"We want to make sure those families are getting access to fresh fruits and vegetables," Coy said. 

Just as the community garden was a collaborative effort between several organizations and community members, it is a place where gardeners can share ideas and gardening tips. Community garden coordinator Mike Burden believes the garden exists for a number of reason, as exemplified by his usage of the land.

"I want to help people have access to healthy food," Burden started, "and get to know some of my neighbors... and get a nice crop of sweet potatoes."