Albany leaders combat food insecurities through gardens, gardening workshops

Albany leaders combat food insecurities through gardens, gardening workshops

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Fighting food insecurity is a top priority for one Southwest Georgia gardener. He’s doing so with community gardens and workshops on how to keep them alive.

Flint River Fresh’s Fredando Jackson said there are about 20 community gardens in the area. He said he’s seen with his own eyes how those gardens help fight food insecurity.

“I have what I call regular grocery shoppers. Like individuals that show up like every week to see what we have into the garden’s space, they sit down and have conversations with me about like kale recipes,” explained Jackson.

Fredando Jackson
Fredando Jackson (Source: WALB)

Jackson believes community gardens are giving hope in the fight against food insecurity, which he said does exist in our small corner of Southwest Georgia.

“I don’t like using the term, like food desert, just because that’s like a sign of no hope, there’s nothing there, there’s no life. So I like to talk in terms that there is a lack of access to fresh food,” said Jackson.

Phoebe Putney officials said this is evident in the patients they see every day.

“A well-balanced diet and regular exercise are the two things that can have the greatest positive impact on your overall health. I, and other physicians throughout our area, see patients every day who are struggling with obesity, diabetes and hypertension caused largely by poor nutrition. Those conditions, as well as cases of cancer and low-birthweight babies, are more common in Southwest Georgia than most parts of the country. That’s terribly sad because many of those problems could be prevented. When young people don’t have access to fresh, healthy food, they’re likely to develop deficient diet habits that may lead to a lifetime of health challenges. That’s why Phoebe sponsors community gardens and supports other outreach efforts to make healthy produce more available and improve the health and wellness of our communities,” said Dr. Derek Heard in a statement released to WALB News 10.

But community gardens are not just giving back to those who live close to them. They also provide produce to food banks like Feeding the Valley. President and CEO Frank Sheppard said 30 to 40 percent of their food supply is made up of produce and 10 percent of that comes from local community gardens.

“They’re a huge opportunity for us,” said Sheppard.

Not only does Jackson want to continue growing community gardens around the Dougherty County area, but he wants to make sure people know how to take care of them.

Flint River Fresh teamed up with Albany Recreation and Parks at J.C. Odom Jr. Fitness and Wellness Center Wednesday for a workshop to show people how to keep community gardens growing.

One of the men who helped ground the roots to make the park what it is today, and said he is glad to see the park grow all these years later.

“Wanted everything to just be beautiful as possible and all we had to do was show effort,” said J.C. Odom Jr.

J.C. Odom Jr.
J.C. Odom Jr. (Source: WALB)
Local Farmer Debunks Gardening Misconceptions

They all believe a little bit of effort is what’s going to keep this park, this garden and this community alive and healthy for many years to come.

But whether you’re about to start work in a community garden or one in your backyard, are you doing it right?

Jackson said there are often misconceptions when it comes to gardening and offers some tips to help you have the greenest thumb possible.

First of all, he said you should know your season. He said it’s best to grow certain vegetables and fruits during certain times of the year.

He said you should also make sure your plants have room to grow. Jackson said some plants need up to three feet or more in space.

Let’s not forget about tomatoes.

He told us you should make sure you plant them a foot deep into the ground. This allows the roots to get really strong and able to support the weight of future tomatoes.

“Because then, if you don’t, what tends to happen is that the roots, they’re not strong enough to support the weight of the tomatoes once the weight gets on them and they’re naturally gonna fall over and then you’re gonna have like a, what I like to tell people, a hot mess,” said Jackson.

Jackson said it’s also important to make sure you don’t plant the same vegetables or similar ones in the same spot year after year. He said by alternating vegetable families, it keeps pests away and circulates nutrients in the soil.

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