New Community Garden to Green Up Local "Food Desert"

Fresh Produce Will Be Grown in Northwest Neighborhood of Lake Wales


Last updated 4/6/2023 at 8:55pm

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Community Food Gardens are a popular trend in many cities, allowing neighborhoods to gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The new garden on city-owned property will serve the "food desert" of the Northwest Neighborhood, which has been without a local grocery store for many years.

An effort to green a "food desert" in the Northwest Neighborhood of Lake Wales will begin next week with the creation of a community garden on a city-owned lot on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The Northwest Neighborhood, which long featured a small community grocery store, now has no market for fresh foods within a mile and a half.

Members of the community are scheduled to join officials celebrate the groundbreaking of The Grove Community Garden at 315 Dr. MLK Blvd. on Friday, April 14. The celebration will begin at 9:00 am. The development of the garden is through a partnership between the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and Department of Health-Polk (DOH-Polk).

The garden is expected to help "reduce urban blight while increasing the supply of fresh produce to area residents," said Cheryl Baksh, CRA Specialist. "We're essentially turning a vacant lot owned by the City into a community garden."

DOH-Polk determined the area to include high rates of food insecurity, behavioral health concerns, and health inequity. Area residents met with City and County staff and agreed the inclusion of a garden will help boost the supply of fruits and vegetables.

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Community food gardens offer residents opportunities to work outdoors while growing their favorite produce in personal plots. They help to transform neighborhoods by bringing people together for a common cause.

"The Grove Community Garden is intended to be for the community and by the community," said Jessica Napoleon, Public Health Planner with DOH-Polk.

DOH-Polk is planning to work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Polk County and neighborhood residents over the summer to decide how the garden will look and function. Other collaborators include Health Council of West Central Florida and Central Florida Health Care.

Invitees for the groundbreaking ceremony include Lake Wales City Commissioners and Mayor Jack Hilligoss, representatives from DOH-Polk, the Polk County Food Security Council, Healthy Communities of Florida Taskforce, and KidsPACK.

Those interested in getting involved in helping plan the garden are asked to contact Jessica Napoleon at [email protected].


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