Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Community Garden at CB Webb Created to Reduce Food Instability

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Oxford Resilience Gardens has been planting a small neighborhood garden at CB Webb that will soon give residents access to fresh vegetables. Photo via Facebook/OxfordResilienceGardens

CB Webb residents will soon have access to fresh, healthy greens. Not because a new market is opening close by, but because they’ll be growing right in their backyard.

Oxford Resilience Gardens, volunteers have been planting a small neighborhood garden at CB Webb using raised beds that will give residents access to fresh vegetables in a few weeks.

Lydia Koltai, the owner of Elder Moon Apothecary, read about a program in New York called Soul Fire in the City that provides materials and support to people who want to build raised-bed gardens outside their homes.

“That gave me the idea to do something similar here,” Koltai said.

She spoke to her friend, Betsy Chapman, director of the Oxford Community Market, and suggested they work together to create residential gardens in Oxford. They named their collaboration Oxford Resilience Gardens and approached Oxford Housing Authority Director Jonathan Hill and Deputy Director Teasha Sanders about creating a raised-bed garden at CB Webb.

“OXCM, through our work as a nonprofit organization focused on improving access to healthy local food, has established relationships at CB Webb and so we decided to reach out to (OHA) about building a small neighborhood garden there,” Chapman said.

The OHA has worked with the Community Market several times in the past to provide healthy food choices to its residents, including holding a weekly farmer’s market at CB Webb.

“OHA is committed to doing anything we can to enhance and enrich the lives of our residents,” Sanders said. “This is a great opportunity for our residents to participate in a community project that will also encourage healthy food options.”

Koltai said Oxford Resilience Gardens, along with help from the University of Mississippi VISTA volunteers, will manage and care for the beds.

“Then residents can harvest what’s growing,” she said. “Eventually, we’re hoping folks who live there will want to take it on, maintain it and grow what they want to grow and it become a community gathering space.”

Chapman said future plans include continuing to work with UM students and OXCM volunteer assistant Lilly Gray on creating more raised-bed gardens, and OXCM’s VISTA volunteer Brenna Gardner to create educational programming to engage neighborhood children in growing their own fresh produce.

According to Feeding America, 15.2 percent of the population in Lafayette County were affected by food insecurity in 2018, and Koltai said the recent pandemic has only made things worse with people out of work or having their hours cut.

“I’m just excited to see that there’s a lot of people in the community here is taking on dealing with food insecurity, because this something that’s been a growing issue with COVID-19,” Koltai said. “So many more people are affected by it right now. But cool stuff is happening. We just have to keep it going and keep building on it.”

For more information on how to help, donate, or create a community garden, send an email to oxfordresiliencegardens@gmail.com.