Did you know that your zip code is a greater indicator of your health and longevity than your genetic code? According to the CDC, more than anything else, where you live matters in terms of your health outcomes.
That is exactly why we need to change the discussion about healthcare and food. As an overall society, we need to take charge of our health before we get sick, but we also need to look at health and wellness as a regional issue. We need to consider our communities as a major player in our overall health.
Fortunately, no matter where you live, community gardens can improve health outcomes. That is why the Aetna Foundation is vested in increasing access to fruits & vegetables in communities across the country.
Here’s how a garden can improve your community:
- It can grow no matter where you build it. Gardens are possible in every community, including urban, suburban, rural, and even the most economically vulnerable areas.
- It can bring the community together. A community garden can help people take pride in their region, and in one another. By cultivating fruits and vegetables that are unique to the region, the community can be reminded of its culture and traditions.
- It can make people healthier. According to the CDC 9 in 10 children don’t eat enough vegetables. Additionally, studies show that the rate of childhood obesity levels off as we raise the intake of vegetables. What a fantastic way to make the next generation a healthier one.
- It can be transformational. Many people, especially children, have never seen fruits and vegetables growing in their natural environment. When people see how their food is grown, they will take interest in it and be significantly more likely to consume fruits and vegetables in their diet.
- It is a learning experience. Everyone can get involved in a community garden, no matter what your level of experience with gardening. Through trial and error, the community will learn about its soil properties, its weather, and which crops grow most efficiently in the region. It can even improve your entrepreneurial skills!
- It is affordable. Locally grown agriculture is significantly more reasonable than that which has to be shipped in from other regions. In vulnerable communities where people may not have enough food to eat, community gardens can provide sustenance.
- It is sustainable. Community gardens are wonderful for the environment (especially organic gardens). They can grow year after year, producing healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables for generations to come.
In the coming months, the Aetna Foundation will be awarding a total of $1 million to fund the creation and expansion of community gardens, urban farms and farmers markets in underserved, low-income and minority communities. To apply, you must be a nonprofit organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or a state or local government agency. (That means schools can apply too!) To learn more about the Aetna Foundation’s Local Roots grant program, go to http://www.aetna-foundation.org/foundation/assets/documents/2015go-local-rfp.pdf. The deadline for applications is 5:00 pm EST on May 6th, so apply today!
Click here for tips for starting an urban garden, a community garden, or a garden in your own backyard. You can also use the American Community Gardening Association to find a community garden near you!
This post has been sponsored courtesy of The Motherhood and the Aetna Foundation.