Jacksonville Region

Community gardening promotes healthy living.

"I love broccoli, bell peppers and collard greens," exclaimed 57 year-old Prince Stevens, a self-proclaimed "city boy" who didn't know a lot about growing, cooking and eating fresh foods until a couple of years ago. "And those tomatoes are delicious!"

As president of the Brentwood Community Resident Council and with support from War on Poverty Florida, Stevens led an effort to start a fruit and vegetable garden in his neighborhood.

It didn't take long for people to notice the time he spent tilling and weeding almost every day. "New people - even kids - wanted to get their hands dirty," said Stevens.

According to Stevens, working in the garden led him to begin eating healthier. As a result, his bad cholesterol levels have decreased. He shops at the grocery store and knows what kind of foods to purchase. "It doesn't have to be from a can," he said. "It's been a learning experience," Stevens went on to say.

"I didn't know how you could cook eggplant until we harvested it and someone told me how to cook it. I didn't know about basil until I watched it grow. Once you see it and how it's grown, you eat more of it."

Stevens is one example of the many Jacksonville residents whose lives have been impacted from a community-wide effort to promote healthy eating and active living on the First Coast.

In partnership with the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida and the Duval County Health Department's Healthy Jacksonville Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, the BCBSF Foundation enabled health care providers, community and parent organizations, business professionals, educators, public health officials and concerned citizens to come together to develop local strategies to address childhood obesity.

The BCBSF Foundation went on to award grants to help participating organizations implement their plans. War on Poverty's community garden is just one component of the healthy revolution taking place across the city because of these community partnerships.

Now that's food for thought.