In the spring of 2013, Johnson County WIC Community Garden was started. It empowers and educates low income clients enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to grow their own food and supplies them with healthy, nutritious fresh produce.
Johnson County, KS Government is committed to the success of the project and there are a number partners but the biggest stakeholders are the WIC clients themselves who volunteer their time working in the garden. On volunteer work days, WIC clients (mothers and children), fathers, grandparents, county employees arrive to sow seeds, pull weeds and harvest produce. The level of appreciation for this project is evident when WIC clients haul home a grocery sack full of fresh produce, but the long term impact from this project is a healthier population and an empowered community.
This year the garden yielded a total of 3700 pounds of produce cabbage, broccoli, sweet potatoes, peppers and new potatoes. More than 600 families typically receive produce from the garden each year.
As the program continues to gain momentum, more and more WIC clients volunteer as they become aware of the program. Just this fall fruit trees were added that should produce a crop in the next three years. Ongoing funding has been solely through grants and donations.
This established program is successful because of community engagement. It is run on volunteers. The volunteer base is comprised of clients enrolled in the WIC program, Johnson County employees who work adjacent to the garden, and local community members. Because the garden is located on the same property as the Olathe WIC office, so produce is distributed through that location.
WIC staff dietitians take time to educate clients when they are at their appointments about the garden and the importance of fresh vegetables in the diet. Monthly cooking demonstrations are also hosted in the WIC lobby, teaching clients about how to prepare the vegetables that are available. This past year, a student volunteer developed a series of recipes with nutritional information corresponding to the seasonal produce available throughout the growing seasons.