The AtlantiCare Foundation provides funds through its Growing Green initiative to create and sustain community gardens. These gardens improve the nutrition practices of youth and adults through the growth of healthy, sustainable foods complemented by wellness and nutrition programming infused with science-based education. In addition, the gardens beautify open spaces and promote collaboration and empowerment among residents and community groups.
Gardens, scholars say, are the first sign of commitment to community.A generous matching gift of $50,000 from the Dave Matthews Band in June 2011 has helped AtlantiCare to identify and support sites and partners for six community gardens, one in each of the six wards of Atlantic City. Continued financial support to the program has come from other music moguls, such as Phish/The WaterWheel Foundation and Orian Music/Metallica, following the programs creation. AtlantiCare Growing Green currently supports in 2014 13 community gardens in southern New Jersey.
— Anne River
Our first Atlantic City ward community garden, the Hope Community Garden (Ward 2) launched in 2011, followed by a garden at the historic Absecon Lighthouse (Ward 1) in 2012. Since then, located in ward 5, the Atlantic City Day Nursery hosts home to a community garden, supported by the children, staff, parents/grandparents and a partnership with the Sovereign Avenue School. Down beach at the Salvation Army community garden (Ward 4), community members and volunteers support a garden that brings fresh produce to the population in need that they service. At Community Harvester’s Church in ward 3, Pastor Alexander Smith and his congregation support a community garden that supplies fresh produce to its members and residents of the area surrounding the church.
AtlantiCare also supports other community garden projects within its service area such as the Jewish Family Service Community Garden, Caring, Inc., St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Pleasantville and two community gardens located in Egg Harbor City. In 2014 AtlantiCare Growing Green assisted in the construction of 2 new community gardens, The Pleasantville Housing Authority Resident’s Garden and the Hamilton Memorial Community Garden, located in Atlantic City.
In addition to funding, AtlantiCare offers these sites wellness programming such as healthy food cooking demonstrations and health educator-led nutrition education and physical fitness activities in the garden. As a result of the gardens, we have seen improved dietary practices and the development of organic gardening skills such as composting by community members.