LITTLE ROCK, AR. (June 14, 2016) – Families facing food insecurity will benefit from a new collaborative garden launched today by Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH), Arkansas Children's Research Institute's Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program, Arkansas GardenCorps, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and the National Park Service-Little Rock Central High site.
All the produce grown in the 4,000-square-foot garden will support Helping Hand of Greater Little Rock, a local food pantry that brings a specially outfitted bus to Arkansas Children's Hospital every week so qualifying families can receive food assistance. Spinach, beets, radishes, lettuce, snap peas and onions from the garden will supplement the distribution of groceries like rice, cereal and canned goods.
"Kids who are consistently hungry aren't consistently healthy," said Judith Weber, RD, PhD, director of the Arkansas Children's Research Institute's Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program (COPRP) and a professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine. "The garden project will help us reach those families who need our help, while also offering an environment where we can further examine how access to fresh produce and physical activity reduce childhood obesity."
COPRP has demonstrated through multiple large-scale projects that gardening improves children's long-term health. Dr. Weber's research has shown that gardening increases kids' intake of fruits and vegetables and raises the likelihood that they'll be more physically active. COPRP also promotes farm to school initiatives, sustainable agriculture and establishment of school and community gardens.
The new collaborative garden, located on the southwest side of the ACH campus at 12th and Schiller Streets, is managed by two part-time members of Arkansas GardenCorps, a program of the COPRP at the Research Institute, and funded by AmeriCorps. GardenCorps service members plant, maintain and harvest the produce. The National Park Service built 10 sprawling raised beds for the garden.
Community volunteers can assist in the garden each Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m. Families are welcome to bring their children to volunteer during the open hours. Volunteer contributions will be vital to providing the produce food-insecure families will receive from the garden through Helping Hand of Greater Little Rock.
Elderly individuals and families facing homelessness, disability and low incomes are among the food pantry's clients.
"Many of the people we serve have to find ways to stretch their income, and buying fresh produce, you could say, is a luxury," said Gayle Priddy, Helping Hand of Greater Little Rock's executive director. "One of our long-term goals has been to provide fresh produce to each family we encounter. Through the generosity of the collaborative agencies and individuals who've helped create this garden, we are doing just that."
Combatting food insecurity is among Arkansas Children's Hospital's priorities. Through a USDA partnership, ACH provides a free nutritious lunch for every child who visits the hospital or its clinics, year-round. Other initiatives include offering on-campus assistance for enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The garden project concept came to life in 2015, and is funded by Arkansas Children's Hospital, the Arkansas Children's Research Institute, and the National Park Service.
Plans flourished with the assistance of the Central High Neighborhood Association. Neighbors have been among the first volunteers, weeding, watering and embracing the project.
"We are grateful that the community around Arkansas Children's Hospital shares our passion for creating new ways to ensure children are healthier tomorrow," said ACH Director of Community Outreach Scott Allen. "This collaboration is nourishing not only the crops, but also Arkansas families."
Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. Over the past century, ACH has grown from a small orphanage in Little Rock to a statewide network of care that includes an expansive pediatric teaching hospital and research institute, as well as regional clinics in several counties. ACH also reaches children across the state and nation through a range of telemedicine capabilities that ensures every child has access to the best care available, regardless of location or resources. The hospital's campus in Little Rock spans 36 city blocks and is licensed for 359 beds. ACH has a staff of 505 physicians, more than 200 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. A campus under development in northwest Arkansas will bring 233,613 square feet of inpatient beds, clinic rooms and diagnostic services to children in that region of the state. A private nonprofit, ACH boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking research — all dedicated to fulfilling its mission of championing children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow. For more info, visit archildrens.org.
Arkansas Children's Research Institute is a free-standing state-of-the-art pediatric research center which provides a research environment on the ACH campus to foster research and scholarship of faculty members of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who are investigating questions relative to development, disease and treatment as it relates to the health of infants, children and adolescents. Physician and biomedical scientist investigators at ACRI and the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center (ACNC) conduct clinical, basic science, and health services research for the purpose of treating illnesses and preventing disease and thereby, improving the health of the children of Arkansas and beyond.
UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,021 students, 789 medical residents and two dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.
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