Silver City, New Mexico, October 29, 2014: A new project, Public Trees for Public Health, will plant orchards in twenty neighborhoods in Grant County during the coming year. The orchards will be located in areas with little or no access to existing community fruit trees or edible plants. Public Trees for Public Health Project was funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and the Grant County United Way for $5,000. The project originated with Grant County Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC), an endeavor of the Grant County Community Health Council to promote healthy eating and active living with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The previous coordinator of HKHC, A.J. Sandoval said, “Access to fresh fruit is difficult for many people in Grant County, and it only makes sense to have fruit trees instead of ornamental trees in public spaces. This is a great project that sprouted from the ideas of many people including Marcus.”
The Health Council will lead a coalition of agencies, organizations and municipalities to pool resources and collaborate on the orchards. Public Trees for Public Health Project was inspired by Marcus Woodard, a local anti-hunger activist. Woodard created a map of fruit trees and other edibles available around downtown Silver City. Woodard says, “I wanted to see trees that have community access get harvested to feed people.”
Health Council assistant coordinator, Kendra Milligan said, “We’ve been mapping community fruit trees for the last two years with partners like WNMU Sustainability Club and the Natural Sciences Department’s Dr. Kathy Whiteman. With the resulting map, HKHC’s Valerie Slover was able to tailor a grant request to fund neighborhood orchards in areas with low access to fresh fruit and reporting high levels of hunger.”
New Mexico ranks first in the nation for childhood hunger, according to the Map the Meal Gap study by Feeding America, with a child hunger rate of 29 percent, well above the national average of 18 percent.
Most of Grant County is classified as a ‘food desert,’ by the United States Department of Agriculture. Food deserts are areas without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food; thus residents have fewer healthy and affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The Public Trees for Public Health Project will bring an abundance of healthy fruit to Grant County neighborhoods, while adding trees to the desert landscape to attract pollinators. Project funds will also be utilized for drip irrigation systems and water catchment specialists to insure the trees prosper in the region’s dry climate.
The Health Council is composed of 30 community leaders who represent various sectors in the community with the goal of mobilizing resources and affecting policy for a greater positive impact on residents’ overall health. The Health Council is the Health and Wellness Planning Authority of the Grant County Board of Commissioners and supported by Gila Regional Medical Center.
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 08:34