We take a lot of things for granted. Many of us just run in the grocery store and grab what we feel like. It's not that way for everybody, guaranteed.
Bell County, Jacksonville, is a city that's full of communities with little access to fresh food. Many people have to take three buses to just get to a grocery store.
We have a lot of walkers in our community because they don't have cars. If they can't afford a car or transportation or bus fare and it's hot in Jacksonville, and so just imagine walking three miles with like ten bags of groceries. It's difficult.
I'm Jonathan Blackburn, the executive director Second Mile Ministries. Second Mile is a work-based organization in partnership with the Aetna Foundation that is working toward well-being in our community. The health challenges facing our community in the Jacksonville Beach's area are health challenges that face all communities that live in poverty.
My name is Mary Ellen Wah and I'm the manager of both the garden and the food pantry at Beam. Beam attempts to provide healthy food to families and clients that are living on a limited income.
I've struggled with stress eating. I know talking to some of you, we all have our days. We know that our clients are more susceptible to diseases and we know that we can affect a change in their health by providing healthy food.
Our program at the University of Florida is focused on working towards that goal through providing support for community gardens throughout the city. When people have that opportunity to grow their own food, it is empowering because there is an independence and there is a choice. When we put these gardens into the community, I see an immediate healthy impact.
So for about a year now, we've had our after-school program volunteering in the metro-north community garden and what we call the Healthy Habits, Healthy Kids initiative.
So you ready to get into the garden? All right, let’s do this. Being able to work in the community garden means that these kids get the exposure that they need to develop healthy habits that will carry on throughout the lifespan.
It connects all those dots so that kids have a more holistic understanding of the process that goes on with the things they put in their body. They are taking the seeds in their own hands then they're seeing this process take place.
It's not just kids that derive the health benefit from a community garden—it's their siblings, it's their parents and it's the extended community around them.
We are giving these people the tools they need to live a healthier happier life no matter where they live. There is nothing more satisfying than working with somebody and teaching them how to grow their own food. That gives them total control over their life.
Last year we produced 7,500 pounds of food and we were able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to almost 16,000 people.
Ultimately it's something that really inspires hope. It inspires kind of this can be attitude where people often say you can't or it won't. It's helping to weave a story within a community and draw a community together. It's about healthy families, healthy children and healthy lives.
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