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Health department looking to start garden

Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 9:36 p.m. CST

MORRIS – Flower beds, fresh fruits and organic vegetables will grow outside the Grundy County Administration building this summer, if the health department’s plan for a Teaching and Healing Community Garden moves forward.

The garden would be open to the public and maintained by students, seniors, mental health patients, veterans, drug court participants and service groups, Grundy County Public Health Administrator Phil Jass said at last week’s Grundy County Facilities Committee meeting where the project was discussed.

Education would be a main focus of the garden as local students and participants in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program could learn firsthand about growing, eating and preparing healthy food.

“A huge portion of the WIC program is education,” head of nursing Judy Bailey said Thursday. “[The garden] would give our clients a new outlook. Rather than coming and just talking about nutrition, they actually grow the food and learn recipes on how to prepare it.”

The garden would be located in the open space south of the administration building near School Street.

Jass said he has reached out to several local schools that are interested in incorporating the garden into school curriculum or after school programs.

Among other opportunities, Jass said the garden would provide the students an outlet for outside activity, teach them gardening skills and educate them about nutrition.

“We live in a rural area. Why wouldn’t we teach our children the importance of growing healthy food and the importance of eating it,” Jass said.

The American Heart Association – which sponsors a nationwide teaching garden program – offered to provide the county with a school curriculum designed around the community garden.

Local company LyondellBasell has offered to help build and design the garden in conjunction with their annual Global Care Day event on May 17.

About 40 or 50 employees from the company would help build the garden and work to procure the majority of the donations needed to construct the beds, benches and tool shed.

“We have some engineers that are very good at doing project engineering and they will plan out what needs to be done,” Phil Cunningham, LyondellBasell engineer and Global Care Day coordinator, said at the meeting. “I think, to me, it’s a perfect project.”

With donations and sponsorship from area organizations, Jass said the county’s financial contribution would be minimal.

“I think this sounds like a great project,” facilities committee chairman John Roth said.

The committee gave Jass approval to move forward with the project, which will involve securing building and zoning permits from the city of Morris and clearing any liability issues with State’s Attorney Jason Helland.

If completed, Jass said the garden will be a huge resource for the health department as it could offer horticulture therapy and other non-traditional forms of counseling.

“What this really is, is getting us all together to improve community health,” Jass said.

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