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Increasing Healthy Living in North Carolina Communities:
Eat Smart, Move More Community Grants
2012-2013

Cleveland County Establishes School-Church Partnerships for Healthy Living

Cleveland County Health Department received the 2012-2013 Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant to develop community gardens at schools that could supply nutritious, locally grown food to underserved populations in the county; students, family members and residents who depend upon the support of food pantries and feeding programs.

Local elementary schools were the chosen site for the gardens. A goal was for the gardens to serve as teaching tools for the children in the schools where the gardens were located. Through the project, children gained an understanding of how food grows and just how much food can be produced on a small piece of land. Additional learning opportunities created for students/staff topics included benefits of composting, how to collect rain water and the science beekeeping.

The project organizers paired each funded school with a nearby church. The county was able to build gardens at six elementary schools, with six churches offering help by tending the garden when school was not in session. As a result, the permanent raised bed gardens provided a year-round teaching opportunity for students, staff and church partners.

Partners for the project included:

  • Cleveland County Schools
  • Alliance for Health
  • Eat Smart, Move More Coalition
  • Cooperative Extension
  • Spake Concrete
  • Lowes Home Improvement
  • Tractor Supply
  • Area Churches
  • Master Gardeners
  • Bee Keepers association of Cleveland County
  • Kelly Mellentine ( Rain Barrels)

The children learned about gardening and growing their own food as they planted seeds and watched food and flowers develop. Many participants in the program enjoyed learning the benefits of gardening through active participation. One third-grade student at Washington Elementary School said,"Thank you for teaching us how to plant tomatoes and beans. My Grandpa has a garden, and I will help him."

The raised bed garden model allowed the gardens to be accessible to all ages and abilities. A teacher’s assistant at one elementary school stated, "I didn't know you could plant all that [tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peppers] in a raised bed. It will be easy for my daughter, who is recovering from cancer treatment, to sit on the edge and work a garden like this."

The grant project created an easily replicable process that works by refurbishing and replanting the gardens over a 12-month period. A unique part of the project was the development of community partnerships around the gardens. Involvement of churches led to the development of relationships between the school staff and the neighboring churches who supported the site. Because the gardens are permanent, there is potential to seek sponsorship through civic organizations in the community and to develop ongoing financial support from the designated church partners for continued support at each school site. The gardens will last for years as they are made of concrete, not wood. The key partners from the schools, churches and community are dedicated to the ongoing success of the gardens.


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