Neighborhood Organization Fights Obesity Through Agricultural Practices
By: Adriana Cardona – the Gate Newspaper
In efforts to fight obesity in his neighborhood, Godwin Akpan and his organization, United Human Service Center (UHSC) are developing a neighborhood project that will provide residents with a choice of nutritious alternatives.
The first goal, according to the program’s objective, is to educate local adults and youth on the benefits of eating healthy foods. The second goal is to teach various sustainable agricultural practices in conjunction with a hands-on experience for participants to put their education into practice.
The adult curriculum will cover topics that include proper soil selection, composting, vegetable selection, organic fertilizers, constructing raised beds, and other topics. The adults that will be selected to participate in the project will be UHSC staff, UHSC volunteers, and community participants who are interested in urban agriculture.
There will be a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 20 adults who will be a part of this project. Classroom training will occur 1-2 times per week at the UHSC headquarters or at the University of Illinois Extension’s organic vegetable garden at the Museum of Science and Industry. The hands-on component for adults will occur 1-2 times per week at the UHSC organic garden located at 1901 W. 51st St. which is a one-eighth of an acre plot of land. If space becomes an issue, the group will have another one-eighth of an acre plot of land at 1211 W. 51st Street.
Isaac Jones, president of the Vireya Nursery School & Kindergarten Inc. in Englewood has agreed to help by announcing this project to the parents of his kids ages 8-13. A total of 10-15 kids will be taught a curriculum designed by educators from the University of Illinois Extension. This curriculum will focus on plant identification, pest control, vegetable selection and other age-appropriate topics.
The hands-on portion for the kids will take place at the 1901 W. 51st Street garden location twice a week.
“Disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago are plagued by a plethora of fast food while healthier nutritious foods seem to be harder to find,” said Akpan. “United Human Services Center has chosen to continue producing garden-grown organic foods and educating the local community on how to grow healthy foods and also on the many health benefits of eating differently.”
The schedule for the Urban Agricultural Initiative is as follows:
March 20, 2012- Begin planting seedlings in UHSC greenhouse
May 1, 2012- Begin classes for adults and kids