Better health begins at the table. That's why a new program is encouraging the use of community gardens in Mississippi County.
"This program was developed by the National Cancer Institute for African American Churches to get the word out about the importance of eating 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables every day," Elroy Brown, the executive director of the Mississippi County Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas said.
The coalition was recently awarded $34,034 to implement the Body and Soul program, specifically designed for African-American churches.
The program targets 4,900 worshipers in 16 churches in the northeast corner of the state.
"You must start at the center of the community, which is the church in African American communities," said Rev. Dr. Melvin B. Tuggle III, author of "It is Well With My Soul—Churches and Institutions Collaborating for Public Health.
Volunteers began planting summer vegetables in community gardens earlier this year. The plan is to have 75% of Body and Soul participants assisting with community gardening and utilizing fresh and nutritious foods.
"Through MCALC, the program that I work for, which is a HeadStart and my boss, Shirley Pulliam and Sam Scruggs, they come up with the idea to fight diabetes and high blood pressure in the state of Arkansas and Mississippi County where I'm from," Dedric Davis with the Master Gardeners program said.
"Arkansas is the ninth fattest in the United States of America," Davis said. "From my understanding, our kids are supposed to bury us, not we bury our kids. Our kids are dying at an alarming rate, high pressure, diabetes, and overweight because of the food that they're eating and what we are feeding them. So we come up with an idea to combat those things through the community garden."
"Trying something different. That's something we can try with our kids. Let us find a way that we can mix certain vegetables into their diets," Brown said.
The coalition is funded by the Arkansas Cancer Coalition. For information on quitting tobacco, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.