Food as Medicine: Gardening Your Way to Health

By Josh Knox, PA-C, MA, Clinical Assistant Professor, Physician Assistant Studies – Do you ever wonder where your food comes from?  Does the growing number of people sickened by “colored slimes” and food-like products frighten you?  Do you dream of growing your own fresh, nutritious produce as a means of optimizing your health?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, the Victory Garden Initiative can help you.

The Victory Garden Initiative (VGI) is a Milwaukee based non-profit organization that was founded and led by Gretchen Mead.  VGI empowers people and communities to grow food in the hopes of reawakening the intimate ecological relationship between humans and their food.  VGI believes that every person can connect to their food source through the direct act of growing it. This simple action reminds us that we are of the earth. That we cannot live without the earth; that our needs are met, not by the economy, but by the earth.  Apropos for an Earth Day blog don’t you think?

Victory Gardens have historical importance in the US.  During WWI and WWII, victory gardens supported the war effort. People grew their own produce in yards, parks, and other community spaces so that all available resources could go towards the war effort. VGI recognizes that we need our green spaces again for growing food, but we are fighting a different kind of battle. We are fighting for food security and the health of our ecosystems. We are fighting for resilient communities that support one another and for strong local economies.

How does one become a Victory Gardener of today?  Becoming a vegetable gardener is the first step.  VGI has many free and small fee classes teaching about annual and perennial gardening.  If you are already a vegetable gardener, VGI helps you support others through their free garden mentor training program.  This weekend in celebration of Earth Day, VGI is having 2 large scale nut tree plantings with free hazelnut trees to participants.

If you enjoy volunteering, VGI’s signature event, the Blitz, may be for you.  The 4th Annual Great Milwaukee Blitz is happening May 19-26th.  During the Blitz, VGI volunteers plant hundreds of raised bed gardens throughout the city and county! This year, VGI is partnering with the City of Milwaukee, the West Allis Health Department and Repairers of the Breach homeless shelter to install gardens for those most at risk for food insecurity.   If you think you’re ready to start gardening, you can register to have a bed installed during the Blitz.  If you’d like to help a needy household, you can donate a garden bed.  If you are interested in participating in the Blitz this year, VGI would love to hear from you.  You can contact VGI at  jazz.glastra@victorygardeninitiative.org.

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