COMMUNITY GARDEN PARTNERSHIPS
Our program has paired students with leadership potential and a drive to do good in Pine Bluff with churches and schools building community gardens. Students at Pine Bluff High School and Lighthouse Charter School are planning, planting, and harvesting from gardens on their campus. In the classroom, teachers are using their gardens to teach science and health concepts from healthy eating to photosynthesis.
As part of a social skills class required at Arkansas Alternative Education schools, First Ward students have had the opportunity to participate in a community service learning program in partnership with What's Next Pine Bluff. Students take weekly field trips to work on community projects including the garden at First United Methodist Church and at Indiana Street Park. Over the summer, our fellows sell produce their produce at the Thursday farmers market at First Presbyterian Church in Pine Bluff.
Our students are passionate about bettering their community and lessening food deserts in Pine Bluff. According to the US Department of Agriculture, food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, 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 Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance notes that Arkansas is tied with Mississippi as the most food insecure state in the nation with 19.2 percent of residents experiencing insufficient amounts of food within the last 12 months.