Nourishing Hope: new community garden promotes wellness

November 9, 2018 | by Lora Pentoney

Finding a plot of land that can be cultivated, sown and harvested creates a space where people can work together toward a common goal, get to know each other better and develop a healthy hobby literally from the ground up.
That’s the idea behind City of Hope’s new Garden of Hope, a community garden on the Duarte campus that is already giving back in more ways than one.
The garden aligns with City of Hope’s Nourishing Hope program, which promotes the connection between nutrition and well-being for patients, employees and visitors,” said Angela Wan, senior project manager in Enterprise Support Services at City of Hope.
“The garden gives anyone on the Duarte campus the chance to pick fresh, healthy and clean food.”
Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans is one of the American Institute for Cancer Research’s top 10 recommendations for cancer prevention. Their recommendation is at least five servings (400 grams or 15 ounces) of nonstarchy vegetables or fruit per day. “An integrated approach to considering the evidence shows that most diets that are protective against cancer are rich in foods of plant origin,” the Institute says.
Wan and City of Hope’s Community Benefit Manager Nancy Clifton-Hawkins co-founded the Garden of Hope, which is located just off the campus’ Buena Vista entrance. The garden is open to all City of Hope employees and patients and everyone else who visits the campus. 
Once City of Hope’s Enterprise Support Services department identified the best campus location for the garden, the Community Benefit team at City of Hope provided “seed” money to develop the garden and install a drip irrigation system. Support was also provided by Best Buy and other community partners eager to see the garden grow. With a groundswell of support from volunteers from various organizations, 17 varieties of winter produce were planted, including red lettuce, kale, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, beets and dill.
The organic garden is maintained without pesticides and is nourished by the master gardeners at UC Cooperative Extension, BrightView Landscaping and a host of green-thumbed volunteers. Clifton-Hawkins said anyone is invited to help keep the garden up. A $5,000 annual scholarship is being created for a student at Cal Poly Pomona studying urban agriculture to devote 10 to 20 hours a week maintaining the garden.
To support the garden, Clifton-Hawkins and Wan also established a Garden Club that provides planned opportunities for members to partake in growing produce. Membership in the club is free and open to everyone. The club meets each Friday morning, and members learn harvest tips, receive updates on the plot and planting, and enjoy many other activities.
“I really enjoy snacking, so I’m transforming the way I eat and what I snack on,” said Garden Club member Sharelle Jones. “I love connecting with people and together focusing on healthier outcomes that are leading to better quality health for myself and for others.”
“We want everyone to feel like the garden belongs to them,” said Clifton-Hawkins. “Anyone is welcome to pick produce, but there is a correct way to harvest, so you should contact the Garden Club to learn the proper techniques to avoid damaging the plants.”
Although still in its early stages, Clifton-Hawkins said the club has big plans for the garden, with several community partnerships already in the pipeline. A field trip from students at Beardslee Elementary School will take place soon, and produce from the garden may soon be part of a farmers market at the Beardslee campus. City of Hope’s own chef Christian Eggerling has visited the garden and may be sourcing herbs and vegetables for meals prepared on the Duarte campus. 
Clifton-Hawkins said she is passionate about bringing the garden to as many people as possible because its impact goes far beyond the nutritional benefits.  
“The garden is an incredible opportunity to change how we think about closing health disparities, such as access to food,” she said. “There is something special about the garden because it makes people feel like they are doing something bigger than themselves.” 
 

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