December 10, 2015 10:25 am

EcoGardens in Via El Salvador

Written by  Jake Kincaid
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The hills around Lima where MEDLIFE works are arid and desert like. Access to healthy food like fresh produce is scarce for most residents. When a community in Via El Salvador expressed interest in working with MEDLIFE to creating a community garden, MED programs intern Jessica Danker jumped at the opportunity and decided to work on this as her intern project.

This community had tried to start a garden project in the past, but were unable to complete it because they lacked the resources to purchase proper soil and to modify existing infrastructure to create a good space for the garden.

            Over half a billion people worldwide suffer from chronic food insecurity, and many more lack access to healthy foods. The communities MEDLIFE works in are no exception. Community gardens can be an effective way of addressing this problem.

4A healthy meal prepared at the MEDLIFE workshop in Via El Salvador

 Along with the obvious benefit of creating access to affordable fresh produce, and the health benefits that follow, community gardening has a host of other benefits that are supported by research in a variety of settings. The positive effect that urban green spaces, something that is very scarce in the communities where work in Lima, have on mental health and overall well being is heavily documented. Participation in community gardens increases civic engagement, and has even been shown to be related to reduced crime and juvenile delinquency in some studies.

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            The local elementary school was chosen as the site of the Via El Salvador, garden so that the community could get the children involved and use it as a learning tool for them. They can learn where their food comes from and about nutrition with hands on experience. The parents, teachers, and children involved with the school are responsible for the upkeep of the garden. The harvest will be distributed to the families with children in the school. MEDLIFE will check in with the school periodically.

3Jessica Danker giving the workshop

            The garden is an eco garden, meaning it is grown naturally without the use of pesticides and other chemicals. It has six garden beds planted with lettuce, carrots, cilantro, aguaymento, celery, Swiss chard, beets, and more. Jessica gave an educational workshop about nutrition in November of 2015 after the garden was planted. She talked about the impact of dietary choices like Inca Cola vs. fruit juice, white rice vs. brown rice, how to combat anemia with improved diet and how to use foods from the garden to combat common nutrient deficiencies in children.

1Lettuce growing in the garden

            As of December the project is going well and Jessica is hoping to do another garden project during her work with MEDLIFE.

Sources:

Groenewegen, P., van den Berg, A., de Vries, S., & Verheij, R. (2006). Vitamin g: effects of green space on health, well being, and social safety. BMC Public Health, 6(149),

Alaimo K, Packnett E, Miles RA, Kruger DJ. "Fruit and vegetable intake among urban community gardeners."Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior, 40(2): 94-101, 2008

Ober Allen, J., Alaimo, K., Elam, D., & Perry, E. (2008). Growing vegetables and values: Benefits of neighborhood-based community gardens for youth development and nutrition. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 3(4), 418-439. doi: 10.1080/19320240802529169

Teig, E., Amulya, J., Bardwell, L., Buchenau, M., Marshall, J., & Litt, J. (2009). Collective efficacy in Denver, Colorado: Strengthening neighborhoods and health through community gardens. Health & Place, 15(4), 1115-1122. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353829209000598

Last modified on February 4, 2016 1:33 pm