Nutrition knowledge grows in Zion City community with garden, classes

(05/13/24) BATON ROUGE, La. — On a breezy sunny evening in May, before the heat of summer settles in, a dozen or so people gathered in what was once a vacant lot in Baton Rouge’s Zion City but is now a growing community garden.

Only minor work was being done in the garden that day — a little pruning, a couple of plantings. Mostly, the group sat in lawn chairs, while Clifford Payne tended hamburgers on a grill. This lot, which was filled with waist-high weeds just a few months earlier, has become a meeting spot for the community.

Dewanna Bandy Drewery, LSU AgCenter nutrition and community health agent, has been working with Zion City Community Development as part of the LSU AgCenter’s Healthy Communities program. Drewery helped secure funding and equipment for the garden.

She said it’s been exciting to see the community come together with this project.

“Every evening different people from the community come. Some will come and just look, and then the next day some will come back and have on work clothes,” Bandy Drewery said.

Greg Hudson walked the rows checking on corn, peppers, tomatoes, okra, collard greens and more. Several fruit trees lined the garden, and watermelon plants sat in their own patch.

Hudson, who joked that he grew out of the very dirt where the plants now sprouted, helped conceptualize the garden with fellow community member Dominco Mack.

“It was our dream and our vision,” Mack said. “We’re going to bring some good nutrition to the neighborhood and just share the love and share the wealth.”

Once the fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest, community members are welcome to take what they want home to cook and enjoy.

Hudson and Mack said there is another motive behind the garden.

“We’re trying to get youth involved,” Hudson said. “If we can get some involved, we could try to curb the violence. And if they don’t have a lot to do with their time, it's going to always most likely end up violent.”

“We want the kids to come down so they can feel like they're being a part of something. When they put in the work, then they can see an end result,” Mack said.

Mack learned to garden from his grandfather, and other community members said gardening was always a part of the community.

Rhosheca Drewery has her own garden at home but got involved to help others in the community enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Having a garden in this area is not foreign to us. We've had several gardens all around this community,” Rhosheca Drewery said. “But the older people that had the gardens passed away, and that information didn’t get passed on, so it got lost. So now seeing it come back again brings back a lot of memories. So that’s what draws people to come in, and it brings them back to where we used to be.”

A few blocks from the garden, Bandy Drewery is conducting a series of Faithful Families nutrition classes at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church every Wednesday evening in May. The program promotes healthy eating and physical activity in communities of faith.

Lessons focus on reading labels, food budgeting, meal preparation and also include beginner exercises. With the help of a participant, Bandy Drewery prepares a healthy dish for the group to taste. The evening ends with a short discussion from a church lay leader and a prayer.

Arthur Griffin Jr. attended the first two classes and said he is already making small changes.

“I learned about portion size. I never thought of that,” Griffin said. "I just ate to eat, but now at my age, I want to eat better, to eat to live another day.”

Bandy Drewery will also conduct nutrition summer camps in the community. She said she is focusing on Zion City to help make small but appreciable changes.

Community members in a garden.

Greg Hudson, Rhosheca Drewery, Matt Drewery, Clifford Payne, Dewanna Bandy Drewery and Tyree Moses, from left, stand in the Zion City Community Garden. The community members worked with Bandy Drewery, LSU AgCenter nutrition and community health agent, to develop the garden in a vacant lot. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter


Rhosheca Drewery prepares to plant a mulberry branch she propagated from a mulberry tree on the property of the Zion City Community Garden. Drewery has been active in helping establish a garden in the Zion City area where she lives. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

Recipe Prep.

LSU AgCenter nutrition and community health agent Dewanna Bandy Drewery, at right, prepares chicken quesadillas while class participant Rita Thomas looks on. Bandy Drewery is teaching a series of nutrition lessons at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church. The garden and classes are part of an effort to improve health outcomes in this under resourced community. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

5/13/2024 2:54:49 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture