In mid-March, Healthy Suffolk staff became concerned that the coronavirus was going to have a serious impact on program delivery. Their planned gardening program model had included working with children and their families in group settings at their teaching/demonstration garden at the East Suffolk Recreation Center. As the pandemic began to pick up its pace and shelter in place orders were issued and the Governor issued an Executive Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia, it became clear to them that they would not be able to deliver the programs as originally scheduled.
Luckily, they had already completed a cleanup day, assigned garden plots for the season, and many plot adopters had already done their Spring plantings. Tending to these gardens continues even under the impact of the virus, as plot adopters can work in their gardens and practice social distancing. They also keep supplies and equipment in the on-site garden tool shed.
What they are most excited about is an innovative project that they have adapted for the coronavirus period: “Garden to Go.” They are partnering with Johnson’s Gardens and providing container garden kits for children and their families. The kits contain potting soil, plants, and seeds. Healthy Suffolk planned to give an initial round of 40 kits as a pilot to determine interest. Teachers have even encouraged the students to apply for the garden kits and have suggested ways to incorporate kits into home study. As part of the initiative, they are following up with the kit winners and are providing incentive prizes (extra plants, seeds, and garden tools) They are encouraging the winners to join the conversation on Facebook, submit photos and anecdotes, and keep garden journals.
The response was overwhelming. Since then, they have subsequently announced 200 more kits as we can utilize funding that has now been reallocated under their revised work plan.
Healthy Suffolk is pleased with their innovative approach to the garden program and plan to continue it beyond the grant period, subject to funding. They plan to make it a cornerstone of the gardening program post-coronavirus.
Healthy Suffolk is a Healthy Communities Action Team (HCAT) grantee of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. These grants aim to improve access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity to prevent and reduce childhood obesity in Virginia. Learn more about VFHY’s HCAT grants.
Stay connected with Healthy Suffolk and their “Garden to Go” project! Like Healthy Suffolk on Facebook.
Healthy Suffolk in the News:
Suffolk News Herald, “Planting good feelings amid pandemic”
Suffolk News Herald, “More gardens are available ‘to go’”
Dive into our next Empower Series event as we continue to put youth center in the conversation