July 27, 2020. By Scarlett Walston.
36,240. That is the number of individuals in Pitt County who qualify as food insecure. Of that, more than 8,000 are children. Startling isn’t it? Something has to be done. But what?
Before we look at solutions, it is imperative that you understand why we all should care about food insecurities. First and foremost, I believe it is our civic duty to help those in need in our communities. Second, food insecurity has been linked to devastating health consequences including obesity and cardiovascular issues, specifically due to higher consumption of “fast foods.” This disparity has also been linked to decreased performance at work and school, along with mental health concerns. Finally, especially in the teenage population, food insecurity can lead to theft and other criminal activities, which can have long-term, detrimental effects on an individual’s life.
While food insecurity is one of the more complex issues impacting our community, there are many solutions underway. And one of the solutions is simpler than you might think: community gardening. Community gardens are becoming popular in both urban and rural areas. Brooklyn, NY has a growing community garden organization and places like Annie’s House in South Carolina are providing education to families so that they can grow sustainable crops on their own. Here in Greenville we have the Make Pitt Fit Community Garden, which is helping get fresh food into the hands who most need it. For $15 per year, you can have your very own garden plot. The garden centers around all members “pitching in” to help with everything from the typical gardening activities to community outreach. Gardening also grows the soul. Growing your own food can provide a true sense of pride and empowerment. You get to see the literal fruits of your labor. And, gardening can help instill values such as responsibility and hard work.
If you are wondering how to get involved, there are several different ways. Get together with your family, friends, religious organization, community group, etc. and create a community garden where you are or purchase a plot at your community’s existing garden. You can keep the crops for yourself or donate them to a local charity to help those in need. If gardening is not really your thing, there are still ways to get involved. Sponsor a plot for a family who could greatly benefit from it. Or, contact your local garden and see what supplies they need, like seeds, shovels, or fertilizer.
Food insecurity is an unfortunate reality for too many in our community; however, there is hope in the fact that we can all help address this issue, including through community gardening. Create your own community garden or support your existing one. You never know how much someone can benefit.
Scarlett Walston is a 2019-20 J Bradley Wilson Schweitzer Fellow and an ECU School of Dental Medicine student.