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INCREASING ACCESSIBILITY TO FRESH PRODUCE IN URBAN FOOD DESERTS IN VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA.

J. Sewards, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, Volusia County, DeLand, Fl.

Situation: Many communities search for ways to increase access to fresh produce as a way to improve overall health outcomes and build a sense of community. The Derbyshire community in Volusia County, (the 32117 zip code of Daytona Beach) has a median household income of $25,571; 48% below the median income of Florida and large grocery stores are more than one mile away. Spring Hill (DeLand, Fl.) has a poverty rate of 37.4% and a median income of $21,633 which is below Derbyshire Place. Similarly, no grocery stores within one mile offer fresh produce. As defined by USDA, a food desert is an area “with limited access to supermarkets, supercenters, grocery stores, or other sources of healthy and affordable food may make it harder for some Americans to eat a healthy diet.”

Methods: UF/IFAS Extension, Volusia County is partnering with both communities to help overcome the lack of access to produce by providing education for creating community gardens. Derbyshire Place offers an ideal situation to reach the community with a variety of programs from cooking to gardening to sewing that provide motivations to visit there. Consequently, residents are more likely to rent a garden plot and raise at least some of their own produce.

Results: A collaboration among UF/IFAS Extension, leadership at Derbyshire Place and ten community partners, built thirty-six 48-square foot beds and 10 vertical hydroponic towers. Over $41,000 was raised to complete the garden in 11 months. At Spring Hill, over $31,000 was raised in cash and in-kind contributions to create thirty-six 32-square foot beds.

Conclusion: These gardens represent public/private collaborations involving governments, public universities and private donors from throughout Volusia County. Creating urban food systems requires partnerships to build capacity, foster community and economic development; and address food security, nutrition and human health issues in under-served communities.

7 Comments on “INCREASING ACCESSIBILITY TO FRESH PRODUCE IN URBAN FOOD DESERTS IN VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA.

  1. Joe,
    I watched you present on this project on zoom and was thoroughly impressed. Great job turning a common inquiry into a REAL extension program. If only all that inquired about community gardens could have outcomes like this. Keep up the great work!

  2. Nice example of partnerships. I’m interested to see the long term impact of the program.

  3. What were the outcomes in numbers of families served, amount of food provided?

    • I have asked the gardens to keep track of what they harvest but neither has do so yet.
      At Derbyshire, there are 36 beds so, there are 36 families served directly from what is grown.

      The first goal was to get the garden up and running. It has proven to be a lot for them to manage as I tried to warn them at the beginning. We are still working with them to develop evaluative tools. Check back this fall! I hope to have some actual data.

    • Thank you Liz. It is still a work-in-progress. As I explained to LuAnn, our first goal was to get it up and running and “see what happens.” I think they are a bit overwhelmed by the response (fully occupied and a waiting list) and we haven’t been able to gather any data on pound of produce harvested etc. Baby steps, I guess. I am proud of them for their ability to leverage the education and support that the Horticulture Program and Master Gardeners have been able to provide to engage sponsors like the Tomoka Consolidated Land Company, Halifax Health, Humana, John Hall Construction, Bethune-Cookman University and others. It shows how collaboration and partnerships can work.