New community gardens in Durham aimed to improve accesbility to healthy food options :: WRAL.com

Will Kreznick

A community effort in Durham is planting seeds of opportunity by working to improve food insecurity and physical skills for seniors. This is an issue that was heightened by the pandemic. Even a wet, and gloomy day wont stop Deborah Richardson from finding her sunshine. “It’s wonderful. I love coming […]

A community effort in Durham is planting seeds of opportunity by working to improve food insecurity and physical skills for seniors.

This is an issue that was heightened by the pandemic.

Even a wet, and gloomy day wont stop Deborah Richardson from finding her sunshine.

“It’s wonderful. I love coming out here,” said Richardson as she picked plants.

Her outlet for hope and happiness is now in the newly installed community garden at Preiss Steele Place. It’s a Durham Housing Authority senior apartment complex for the elderly and disabled.

“So people can have food to eat. You know fresh food better than canned goods sometimes,” added Richardson.

She’s lived there for almost 10 years and said access to healthy food is very limited.

One conversation with a community organizer who was dropping off food to residents during the height of the pandemic changed it all.

“I think gardens offer a lot of opportunity for people to understand that they can be producers rather than dependent consumers of food,” said Rebecca Hoeffler, a sustainability coordinator at Duke. She went to several DHA properties during the pandemic to help bring food and supplies.

“And that anabolism of being able to grow your own food is something that feeds you so much more than just eating food,” she added.

Rebecca Hoeffler worked the past several months to get a financial grant of $6,000 and install gardens across four sites to serve even veterans and large families in need.

The grant comes from the Southwest Durham Rotary club.

“There’s something that is so magical about seeing a child get excited about dirt and soil and worms. And knowing that they can eat food that they grow really is really the best thing,” she said.

As trolleys filled with kale, lettuce and broccoli begin to grow, dozens of volunteers and residents are working to transform their cognitive and mental health, starting from the root of it all.

Organizations also involved include Volunteers of America and Slice 325.

“They already to be picked now. Later on this week, we’re going to pick and give it to the people in this building,” added Richardson.

The final work day is at Hoover Road this Saturday. Organizers are hoping to expand this effort to other locations in the near future.

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