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Gardening Provides a Bounty of Benefits to Prisons and Public Schools

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade. 
Rudyard Kipling 

The act of planting a garden – working the soil, tending to the plants and reaping the bounty is a time-honored tradition that has slowly morphed from necessity to hobby. Over the last 100 years, America’s industrialization and urban expansion have eliminated the need for gardens in most households. Unfortunately, some apartment dwellers are packed so close together that growing basil in a pot on the windowsill is the closest they’ll get to a harvest.

Today we’re highlighting two programs that teach gardening skills in the United States. Though the “participants” are very different, they all receive benefits that go far beyond the eventual food a garden yields.

 

Prison gardens

Prison Garden

Last week, the National Public Radio (npr) website ran a story about several minimum security prisons that have developed their own vegetable gardens thanks in part to the Insight Garden Program. Inmates who qualify for the program are allowed to work outside where they tend to a small area of raised beds that grow everything from tomatoes to lettuce. Beth Waitkus, Director of the Insight Garden Program said she created this endeavour after the tragedies of 9/11 to, “restore her faith in humanity.”


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Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Reminds Americans “You Deserve Better”

My favorite part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution this Father’s Day week was Jamie’s visit back to the Barrett family to see if they have stayed away from fast food since his last visit. As Jamie strode up the sidewalk, he noticed that they were growing herbs and vegetables. The father and the teenage son answered the door in aprons, in the midst of preparing dinner for themselves and Jamie. They had even filled the living room with all kinds of produce in jest of Jamie filling their home with fast food on his last visit. The father stated that he had lost 16 pounds already and, most importantly, feels good about himself as a father now that he cooks and has dinner at the family table with his sons.

The episode started with Jamie visiting a convention for school lunch cooks. He let us know that it is not just the LAUSD, but he has also been denied access to 75 other school districts. The comments by the cooks and administrators made it clear that people are afraid of bad press.

I find it sad when we try to pretend that we are perfect and/or do not open ourselves up to improvement through real awareness. I work with people frequently who confess less than functional habits. Just because Jillian Michaels already works out daily, does not mean she is better than the person asking for help to start exercising more often. In fact, I often find that the person trying to make a change has more courage and is working harder than the person who has already developed a healthier habit. My favorite part of the school lunch cook convention was Jamie commenting on the fact that during airing of the Food Revolution, commercials for fast food or convenience food are also being aired.


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Time to plant a garden

It’s spring, and everything in the Pacific Northwest is abloom. I’m thrilled, as I’m an avid gardener, and just last year, discovered the culinary pleasure of homegrown snow peas. Plump, sweet and crunchy, bugs could seem to care less about them, and my then seven-year old would make any excuse to go outside and devour his own body weight in green vegetables.

Yes, you read that right- a seven-year old eating green vegetables!

Gardening is not just a hobby. For those of you following the Peak Oil Crisis and the resulting Cuban diet, soon enough, gardening will be a means of survival. A very real scenario in the next forty years is that oil prices will make transportation of food economically unviable. Pressure on local farmers will outstrip supply, and only those who grow their own foods will have readily available access to fruits and vegetables. Meat will become scarce in urban areas, and dairy will become a luxury few can afford. We are already seeing nearly $5.00 for a gallon of milk, and the cost of gas, to transport that milk, is nearly the same.

In Italy, the term “risorgimento” refers to a re-birth or re-unification, now a way of life for most Italians. Roughly translated, they live on the same land with which they source the things they need to live. The first step is learning to live on less. Isn’t that what a diet is all about?