Volunteer council commits $20,000 for community garden grants

Community garden | Stock photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Healthy Dixie Council, is committing $20,000 to help grassroots efforts establish community gardens in Washington County so people have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Delaying water impact fees for community gardens, this one at 900 West and 360 South, was a point of discussion for the Hurricane City Council Thursday, August 7, 2014 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News
Delaying water impact fees for community gardens, this one at 900 West and 360 South, was a point of discussion for the Hurricane City Council Thursday, August 7, 2014 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

The grant program is part of the outreach the volunteer council is making in its overall mission to encourage healthy lifestyles among the citizens of the County, according to its announcement Wednesday.  In addition to the grant program, Healthy Dixie has worked with government agencies to formulate policies that delay water impact fees for community garden plots.

“One simple yet important way to be healthy is through eating wholesome nutritious foods,” said Jordan Merrill, health educator for Southwest Utah Public Health Department. “Community gardens provide nutrient-packed fresh fruits and vegetables that are inexpensive and highly beneficial for our bodies. Community gardens are a real asset to any community they are a part of.”

Along with physical health, these gardens also provide a greater sense of community ownership while increasing relationships with neighbors by sharing gardening skills and responsibilities.

The $20,000 will be divided into several smaller startup grants over a two-year period. The grants are intended to assist in covering the cost of water meter installation and irrigation systems on vacant land with the owner’s consent. Information and grant application forms are included on Healthy Dixie’s community garden Web page linked here.

Delaying impact fees is a national trend that has proven successful over time in many communities, resulting in beautified neighborhoods, improved access to fresh produce, and engaged youth, according to a study in the “Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition.”

“I have found that my own children have an increased appetite for vegetables they have grown and harvested themselves,” Hurricane City Engineer Arthur LeBaron, chair elect of Healthy Dixie, said, “and which they would otherwise most likely not consume.”

According to a study by the New York University School of Law, community gardens also provide a significantly positive impact in residential property values and an increased rate of home ownership.

“Healthy Dixie appreciates the positive response of numerous city officials and the Washington County Water Conservancy District in helping to improve access to grassroots community gardens,” council Chair Steve Bingham said.

About Healthy Dixie Council

Healthy Dixie is a group of Washington County citizens involved in government, business and education and committed to promoting healthy habits in the county.  According to its news release, the council strives to encourage positive lifestyle and legislative change through community and government outreach and education with the goal of improving the overall health of the citizens of Washington County.

The council distributes grants for programs which encourage healthy lifestyles, creates community-based events and participates in wellness expos.

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