Blackburn Institute starts food garden to increase local food access

Blackburn Institute starts food garden to increase local food access

On Saturday, members of The University of Alabama’s Blackburn Institute built one of two community gardens in Holt, Alabama as part of a competition within the Daniel Community Scholars Program. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

On Saturday, members of The University of Alabama’s Blackburn Institute built one of two community gardens in Holt, Alabama as part of a competition within the Daniel Community Scholars Program.

When presented with the challenge to change the surrounding community for the better with the Daniel Community Scholars Program, Andrea Hayes, a junior majoring in public health and management and a member of the group responsible for the project, and her group of five chose to create a new community garden.

Hayes said the project’s goal was to increase access to food in 
Tuscaloosa County.

“We chose a community garden project because in Alabama we have a huge problem with food security and food deserts and access to food,” Hayes said. “Currently, with the current agriculture program in the United States, it’s not that we have a lack of food, it’s how we distribute it.”

Caitlin Cobb, a senior majoring in political science and a member of the group responsible for the garden, said their group chose Holt because of the deep need present in the 
Holt community.

“We saw the most need in the Holt community because we saw that they don’t have any grocery stores. The only grocery store that they use is the Dollar General, actually,” Cobb said. “So we thought it would be helpful and beneficial to provide free local produce.”

Hayes had a personal investment in the Holt community, having worked within Holt through a number of University programs. According to Hayes, Holt has long wanted a community garden, but there were a lot 
of barriers.

The group partnered with the nondenominational Selma Church and Hurricane Baptist to create community gardens on each church’s grounds. Since partnering with the churches, Hayes and the other members of her group had different meetings and focus groups with community members about how they wanted to plan the gardens and what they wanted to plant.

On Saturday, the group established the first community garden on Selma Church’s land, building six different garden beds. This Saturday, April 8, the group will build the next garden on Hurricane Baptist Church’s land, working from 8 a.m to 2 p.m.

After establishing the gardens, the Blackburn group will leave the gardens in the community’s hands.

“We obviously started it off,[...] all the labor, all the time, and then we provided the funding, but we wanted it to be something that Holt does kind of make it their own,” said Cobb. “We wanted to do this for them, and then they would turn this into whatever they want.”

Hayes echoed Cobb’s sentiment.

“It’s exciting, because both of the churches are partnering together, so it’s bringing different parts of Holt together that may have not worked before, they now have like a common ground,” said Hayes.

Those interested in helping the group establish the gardens can help by showing up this Saturday at Hurricane Baptist at 8 a.m.

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