School garden designed to help fight disease

Johnny Morgan, Barnette, Ryan, Shaw, Ursula  |  5/18/2012 1:45:27 AM

LSU AgCenter 4-H program assistant Ursula Shaw and 4-H agent Ryan Barnette discuss plans for their 4-H community-school garden in Clinton. This is the first of a series of student managed gardens planned in East Feliciana Parish. (Photo by Johnny Morgan. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 05/17/12

East Feliciana 4-H clubs hope their school-community garden project will help decrease the incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure in elementary and junior high students in the parish.

Once the members realized the extent of health problems in the parish, they decided to begin growing fruits and vegetables as a way to introduce fresh produce into the diets of middle school students, said LSU AgCenter 4-H program assistant Ursula Shaw and 4-H agent Ryan Barnette.

These health problems are at epidemic proportions in the parish, Barnette said. And what makes it worse is their young age.

“We’re seeing really young kids with health issues requiring them to take high blood pressure medicine and insulin for their diabetes,” he said.

This garden is a way to get children to move more and allow them to get involved in growing the food they eat, Shaw said.

“This community garden is a work in progress,” Shaw said. “It is the desire of the East Feliciana Parish 4-H program to have a garden in the vicinity of every school in the parish so the children can have fresh fruits and vegetables in every school.”

What started as a project for students has grown into a little healthy competition among some of the parish business leaders and elected officials, Shaw said.

The sheriff’s department and several other officials have adopted rows in the garden with signs “marking their territory.”

“It’s nice to have these leaders involved in the kid’s work,” Shaw said. “I think it shows the kids that this is something that’s important.”

The students are responsible for most of the weeding and general upkeep of the garden, but some grownups have been by and seen that the garden needed the work, and they didn’t hesitate to jump in and help, Barnette said.

The garden has 10 rows and 10 types of fruits and vegetables. Each row has a local sponsor, which includes the sheriff’s office and chamber of commerce’s two rows of corn. The 911 Commission has a row of field peas, and the police jury has a row of tomatoes.

Others involved are the Public Defender’s office, the School Board, the Assessor’s Office, and the District Attorney and Clerk of Court offices.

Individuals helping with the garden include local resident Ann Jones, LSU AgCenter regional director Bobby Fletcher and 4-H regional coordinator Renee Castro.

The middle school is a “pilot” school since it is close to the garden site. Excess production from this summer garden will be given to the Council-on-Aging for distribution to the elderly in the parish.

Barnette said when the students return in the fall, they will begin their fall garden. They plan to use some of the fall produce in the cafeteria.

The club’s garden is located in a high-visibility location in front of the old high school building on Plank Road in Clinton.

Johnny Morgan

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