CHHB in the Community

Photo courtesy of WNED’s ThinkBright and LiveWell community garden.

Associate professor Heather Orom, PhD, wanted to help her Principles of Community Health and Health Behavior students put the research theories and methods they’d been studying into action. She reached out to WNED-TV and the station’s community engagement initiative, LiveWell, aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles in Buffalo’s East Side neighborhood, for ideas.

In partnership with Diann Holt, local preacher at Durham Memorial AME Zion Church and chaplain at Central City Café soup kitchen, and Sheehan Memorial Hospital, LiveWell had recently established a community garden in the area and was looking for help in promoting the resource to residents. While some of the garden’s fruits and vegetables were supplied to Central City Café, plots were available for community members to ‘adopt’ to grow their own produce.

According to the American Community Gardening Association, community gardens help stimulate social interaction, reduce family food budgets, and create opportunities for recreation and exercise, among other benefits.

Orom’s class embraced the service-learning project and, with just under three months to complete, set off with an ambitious agenda.

  • The formative research team assessed how receptive the community would be to outreach efforts encouraging them to participate in the garden, and identified barriers and motivators.
  • Using this information, the phase two research team conducted the outreach and promoted an event to engage the residents in community gardening and eating fruits and vegetables.
  • The phase three team planned and organized the Harvest Festival Community Event which included health checks, cooking demonstrations, gardening and nutrition information, arts and crafts activities for kids and garden tours.

The result? Approximately 77 people in the neighborhood attended the community event and learned how to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their everyday meals. The research team also discovered potential garden volunteers and adopters and identified additional community needs through a participant survey.