Increasing Healthy Eating, which includes providing access to nutritious foods and educating folks on ways to cook and eat healthier foods, is a priority for us. Our Garden2Table initiative with The Virginia Cooperative Extension is a featured program. The Garden2Table initiative was developed to provide fun, cost effective, and collaborative gardens within our community.
Our first garden opened in 2015 at Cambridge Square Apartments. This garden serves senior and disabled individuals at this complex. The garden features wheel-chair accessible beds that were built by students from Old Dominion University. Additional raised-beds, which were built by volunteers from the US Navy and youth doing community service work, were donated as well. The Carters Nursery in Chesapeake provided many of the plants and supplies needed. Tomatoes and other fresh produce were grown throughout the summer and harvested for individual and community use.
The garden at Cambridge Square Apartments also features an art gallery with pieces produced by the residents and a colorful rain barrel created by the gardeners. The artists continue to produce work that is on display in their outside gallery, within the community commons room, or taken home. Donations of art supplies are always appreciated!
We broke ground on a new pilot program to provide fresh produce to seniors and others through area food pantries. The first of what we hope to be several production gardens is located at the Messiah United Methodist Church off of Dominion Blvd. With the support of the Glick Foundation, this garden is being rebuilt to have raised beds and walkways. Thus, our disabled individuals from Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Health and Southeast Virginia Training Center can participate in the gardening efforts.
Recently, we completed construction of our first aquaponic garden, which utilizes fish to help the plants grow. The fish waste is used as food for the plants. The plants purify the water for the fish. We are excited to add this new garden addition to the city of Chesapeake. The aquaponic garden is located at the Apostles Lutheran Church. This garden is also maintained by clients of Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Health and Southeast Virginia Training Center.
Chesapeake is also supporting learning gardens. We support the education of children in our community with our first school based garden at Carver Intermediate. We also provide support for the community education garden at the Chesapeake Health Department. If you are interested in having your group work at the gardens or donating land to develop additional production gardens, please let us know. We can take one time groups or groups, who want to volunteer on a regular basis.
In addition to gardening, we are also focused on teaching healthy cooking techniques. The Healthy Chef cooking program has a partnership with the YMCA and Cooperative Extension. The first phase of this program introduces youth to healthy eating habits. The second phase includes a multi-week hands-on cooking school. With funding from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, approximately 50 youth participated in the first phase of this program over an 8-week period this past summer.
For phase two, the Cambridge Square Apartments residents are learning about how to make healthy foods with the products they are growing in their garden. The classes even involve cooking strategies to people with diabetes. The cooking school is held in the commons room of the apartment complex. The classes are free for residents. If you would like to volunteer and become a trained food instructors, please let us know.
Michelle Charters, Healthy Chesapeake’s Clinic Program Coordinator, chairs the Healthy Eating Work Team, which meets monthly to develop programs and strategies for healthy eating. Membership on this team is open to anyone interested in getting involved. Please check the calendar for the next meeting and join us!