Planting of vegetables begins this month on the Peoples Garden at Peoples Clinic in Waterloo.

WATERLOO — Peoples Community Health Clinic is launching the “Peoples Garden” with the University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy & Environmental Education and AmeriCorps.

Their goal is to fight food insecurity and improve access to fresh vegetables by providing free produce to Peoples Clinic patients.

Food insecurity in Black Hawk County remains high, with an estimated 18,960 food insecure individuals in 2016. Combining this knowledge with needs seen within the clinic, Peoples Clinic Chief Executive Officer Christine Kemp wanted to do more to support patients outside of traditional health care offerings.

“In 2018, we participated in the Veggie Voucher program with the help of UNI. The program was a complete success, with our giving out $6,000 worth of vouchers for use at local farmers markets,” said Kemp. “This really opened my eyes to the limited access our patients have to fresh fruits and vegetables locally. UNI recognized the same thing as they kept tally of the Veggie Vouchers being used by our patients and were totally on board with us creating our own garden to further support our patients.”

The clinic hopes increased access to fresh produce will lead to healthy eating among their patients. To make sure patients were engaged in the garden process, Peoples Clinic asked for feedback from both patients and community members.

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“It was important to us that clinic patients, especially, had a say in the produce that is grown,” said Kamyar Enshayan, director of the UNI Center for Energy & Environmental Education. “We got a wonderful response to the surveys we made available, which gave us a clear direction regarding what seeds and plants we should order for planting.”

The clinic broke ground on the garden in April, preparing for planting in May. “Peoples Garden” will begin to produce vegetables in June. Once this happens, patients of Peoples Clinic will be able to select what they need for their families, completely free of cost, no questions asked.

“We realize that there are so many factors in keeping people healthy. The traditional cycle of diagnosis and treatment can only get a person so far,” said Kemp. “Fresh food can act as medicine. It plays a huge role in complementing the recommendations we make to our patients. We not only care about our patients when they are at the clinic, we care about what’s happening at home and want to make sure they’re able to be as healthy as possible.”

For more about the “Peoples Garden,” visit www.peoples-clinic.com/our-garden.

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