Garden to Table project kicks off in Morehouse Parish

Karol Osborne  |  11/15/2018 4:28:14 PM

(11/15/18) BASTROP, La. — Morehouse Parish residents celebrated with food demonstrations, health screenings, gardening and games at a kickoff event launching the Garden to Table project on Nov. 10 at the LSU AgCenter auditorium in Bastrop.

The festivities drew more than 75 people and offered a variety of interactive stations for vision, blood pressure and glucose screening, food tasting, face painting, gardening and other hands-on activities.

The blender bike attracted both children and adults alike. Participants selected from a variety of fruit and dairy options to make a healthy smoothie drink using a pedal-powered blender.

“So you get a little exercise with a good treat, and you have a good day!” said Bria Waters, an event volunteer who supervised the blender bike activity.

The Garden to Table project in Morehouse Parish is funded through a Louisiana Healthcare Connections grant as part of a healthy living initiative to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and promote healthy eating.

Morehouse Parish currently ranks fourth in poorest health ratings for health outcomes and factors that contribute to health, said Chris Broussard, Louisiana Healthcare Connections marketing and communications vice president.

“High need along with strong community partners is a perfect combination for making a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

“This grant will help bridge the gap between food insecurity and access to fresh foods and encourage greater community involvement getting the produce to those who need it the most,” said AgCenter family and consumer science regional coordinator Terri Crawford.

The project will focus on the development of three new community garden sites featuring raised-bed gardens and monthly nutrition workshops and horticulture demonstrations, said Brittney Seay, AgCenter nutrition agent.

“Community gardens are very important in conquering food insecurity,” Seay said.

For people without access to a raised bed or a traditional garden, container gardening is also simple and easy way to grow fresh produce, she said.

Community partners collaborating on the project include the Morehouse Community Medical Centers Inc. and the Southern University Ag Center.

Katie Parnell, CEO of Morehouse Community Medical Centers Inc., said she sees a lot of obesity in children at the school-based health center and at the clinic, where dietary and physical activity counseling is provided at least twice a year to patients.

“If we can teach kids how to eat healthy and change behaviors and habits at a young age, it will save health care dollars down the line, and they will live healthier lives,” Parnell said.

Three raised-bed garden plots will be built at the AgCenter Morehouse Parish office site, with two more to be developed in selected parish housing communities.

“With the right partnerships and local talent supporting the gardens, we will be able to be up and running before the end of the year,” said Chelsea Graves, community relations principal with Louisiana Healthcare Connections.

AgCenter horticulture agent Kerry Heafner said he is working to cultivate a Louisiana Master Gardener group in Morehouse Parish to assist with garden instruction and support.

“If we can get a Master Gardener class here, we can train volunteers to serve as the core group to keep the project growing forward,” he said.

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LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Kerry Heafner at right tells about different garden seeds to a visitor at the Garden to Table project kickoff event on Nov. 10 in Bastrop. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter family and consumer science regional coordinator Terri Crawford serves up samples of healthy snacks at the Garden to Table project kickoff event on Nov. 10 in Bastrop. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter

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