The declining overall health and wellbeing of the population is always a hot topic in the news today. The abundance and convenience of fast food and junk food eating opens the door for numerous health issues for people of all ages in this country. Efforts from numerous organizations and health promoters are underway to help curb the downhill slide that the general public is taking.
The Victoria County Public Health Department (VCPHD) has organized the Victoria County Active Living Plan, a program to help give people the opportunity to experience a physically active way of life and to make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition. Last year the Victoria County Public Health Department along with 30 other agencies devised the Active Living Plan to promote healthy living in the Crossroads area. Through the Active Living Plan, a strategy was laid out to help promote wellness in the local population through programs and education partnered through local businesses. The movement was branded FitVic. As a part of the strategy to see a healthier population, community gardens were established on March 31 to provide residents free access to fresh fruits and vegetables in order to be healthier. Through a grant, the community gardens were established by VCPHD working with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M Healthy South Texas, South Texas and FitVic . West Farms Artisanal Grower & Nursery donated some of the vegetation for the gardens. There are three garden locations; one next door to the health department building, one in Bloomington, Texas, and one more location at the Victoria airport. The two near Victoria are small key hole composting gardens approximately 6 feet in diameter. The Bloomington location is much larger thanks to 5th grade science teacher Kathy Westerman who had already started a community garden in that location. This location includes one key hole composting garden, one pizza garden and three long row gardens. Ms. Westerman’s 5th grade class regularly tends the Bloomington garden. The staff at the health department tends the one near VCPHD building. Also, in Bloomington, community businesses are adopting a bed to help with the care and maintenance of the gardens. Anyone can come into the gardens and deposit their composting materials and when the garden is producing, anyone can pick produce from the gardens. There are no fences or fees and people do not have to ask or seek permission to partake of the gardens. Currently the gardens contain a wide variety of fruits, herbs and vegetables such cucumbers, squash, basil, oregano, strawberries and tomatoes just to name a few. Over the summer, the health department is planning to add two more keyhole composting gardens in the area and two fruit trees in the fall. In this way the health department hopes to generate more food at a faster pace for those in need.
Fourteen percent of Victoria County lives below the poverty level and it is the hope of the VCPHD that these community gardens will provide much need access to fresh fruits and vegetables to help promote a healthier lifestyle. To help promote the community gardens, the VCPHD is planning several events some of which include healthy cooking demonstrations to show the consumers that healthy cooking can be done from the garden produce, from garden to table. The FitVic has put together a community garden committee and through this committee sources will be sought to help with the cooking demonstrations.
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“The day that we installed the gardens here at the health department, we had about 30 volunteers from the health department as well as the community come out to support us and put this all together.” States Angie Stafford, Public Health Worker. “If it wasn’t for our community partners we would not have been able to initiate this community garden or this FitVic to get Victoria healthier.”
The vision of the Victoria County Public Health Department is to be a free source of fresh produce and herbs for Victoria County residents to access. To continue to see this vision become a reality consider helping with this worthy endeavor. For more information on the community gardens go to www.fitvic.org. For more information on the Active Living Plan of the Victoria County Public Health Department go to www.victoriacountypublichealthdepartment.org.