The Health Department’s Step ONE(Optimize with Nutrition and Exercise) program offers grants to neighborhoods and organizations to begin and sustain teaching gardens. The purpose of the Step ONE teaching gardens is to:
- Demonstrate to children and families the importance of food choices for overall health;
- Provide opportunities for people to learn valuable skills such as communication, responsibility, teamwork, and leadership.
The combination of distance to a healthy food retail outlet and poverty create what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls a “food desert.” According to USDA and Census Bureau data, about 72,000 people in Chattanooga and Hamilton County live in food deserts, with about 23,000 (32%) of those people living in poverty. People who live in food deserts tend to suffer from more chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The presence of fresh, healthy food choices, along with regular physical activity, is critical in reversing these trends.
“The Step ONE garden program seeks to change the relationship we have with food,” explains Step ONE Program Manager John Bilderback, “When people- especially children- are involved in the process of preparing, planting, maintaining, and harvesting gardens, research shows they are more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables they produce. By changing our food habits we are building a healthier future for our county.”
Since December 2008, Step ONE has funded 50 teaching gardens around Hamilton County. Any organization such as neighborhood associations, churches, schools, businesses, or day cares may apply.New teaching garden grants are awarded in the amount of $1000, and previous grantees can apply for $250 for up to 3 years. Now through September 1st, Step ONE will be accepting applications and the group should be ready to launch their garden early next spring. Application materials can be found on the Step ONE website.
Current grant recipients have this to say:
- “In many ways this garden project is metaphorical to our school…we take in students (seeds) and provide them a nurturing environment; we give them everything they need to grow and become strong enough to be transplanted into a new environment.”– Hamilton County High School.
- “The garden is therapeutic as it gives our clients something to work on and see the literal fruits of their labor.”– The Next Door.
“The teaching gardens teach more than just good nutrition,” says Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, they are teaching core values such as unity, cooperation, relationship building, and leadership to people of all ages. When these values take root in the garden, they take root in our community.”
To apply for the teaching garden grants, visit the Step ONE website or call 423-209-8090