Let me just start by saying that gardening and nutritional education saved my life. I was 270 pounds on 15 medications. I‘ve survived 7 heart attacks and 2 strokes. I’m now 140 and take 1 medication. I realized that I am what I eat and had to make some serious changes. There was no surgery or medication for weight loss for me. I simply educated myself in nutrition. I can’t undo the damage to my heart, but feel that through my non-profit, From the Ground Up Farms, Inc., I can save someone else from this unnecessary fate. If I can do this at 52 years old, anyone can.
Since moving back to Chico, after 25 years in Fresno, I realized that this community has a serious food security issue. I don’t believe healthy organic food should be a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. Did you know Chico has 87.2% of its children from ages 3 to 17 attending public schools and/or daycares with inadequate food programs that seem to barely meet the legal requirements? 25.9% of those children are on some form of public assistance and struggling at home as well for proper nutrition due to lack of money according to new US Census information.
The income per capita in Chico is 20.2% less than the California average and 16% less than the National average. The median household income in Chico is 30.1% less than the California average and 19.1% less than the National average. The poverty level in Chico is 49.8% greater than the California average and 53.8% greater than the National average. We will continue to grow food and give it away, but From the Ground Up feels we need to teach our community how to grow their own food. The other issue we intend to address is lack of nutrition education and even basic gardening knowledge in our community. By growing their own food, the money they save can go back into the family budget for other needs.
The mission of the project is to reduce illness and improve the lives of Chico residents by educating them in nutrition, gardening, harvesting, cooking, preserving and even marketing their own healthy organic food. I have gathered a group of local farmers, educators, artists, and activists who are dedicated to bridging the nutritional gap through community gardening and education. We want to teach everyone how to grow their own food so I started community gardens on empty lots and in residential treatment and/or housing facilities, beginning in our poorest neighborhoods, with residents of all ethnicities and backgrounds learning to garden. As a by-product, these gardens are bringing neighborhoods together by building bridges between cultures as they work hand in hand feeding their families.
We started a “Home Schoolers” garden project last year at Kentfield Gardens @ 1125 Kentfield Road at 10:30 am on Friday mornings. Not only are the children learning to garden, but now the parents are learning as well. The art and craft projects are all centered on the garden and what is growing.
We have also installed a 20 bed garden at The Torres Community Shelter. We have installed a garden at The Avenida apartments which is Caminar funded housing for folks with mental illnesses. We have gardens at both Chico Community Children’s Centers. These are just a few of our projects. It is pretty amazing to work with these populations teaching them a healthier way. We come back with monthly workshops offering anything from cooking, preserving, nutrition, anxiety control through breathing, gardening, water saving irrigation ideas, container gardening for small spaces and even marketing of the food they have grown.
Everything that we grow is donated to food pantries and programs already feeding those who are unable to feed themselves at the moment. All of our food that we grow and all of our workshops/programs are offered to the recipients for free.
by Jenny Lowrey