Ending Type 2 Diabetes One Exercise, Nutrition, and Gardening Class at a Time

Diabetes Prevention Program Community Garden Component – The Facts

In Community Garden on June 23, 2010 at 10:23 PM

In September of 2005, a joint research study conducted by the Connecticut Food Policy Council, University of Connecticut, and Hartford Food System concluded that New Haven is one of the lowest ranking towns in Connecticut for community food security ( it ranked #163 out of a total of 169 towns). You can read the study here:http://www.foodpc.state.ct.us/images/CFS%20in%20CT.pdf.

Fair Haven Community Health Center’s Diabetes Prevention Program aims to develop and disseminate effective ways to curtail diabetes among its population and community.   We have recently established a community Garden component to add to the proven success of our ongoing nutrition and exercise interventions.


Chabaso Bakery generously donated the Garden space, which measures around 40×20 feet and borders the bakery itself on James Street in Fair Haven. We hold three regular workdays, any or all of which participants are welcome to attend: Tuesdays 9-11am, Tuesdays 5-6:30pm, and Friday 9-11am. On average, 2-4 participants and their children are present at each session, and in total 10 participants have established themselves as regular members of the Garden.

DPP Community Garden Goals

The Garden has five main aims:

  1. Enhance the weekly nutritional content of participants’ diets.
  2. Provide additional opportunity for physical activity.
  3. Create community among participants.
  4. Expand participants’ knowledge and commitment to healthy foods.
  5. Increase awareness and interest in FHCHC’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Current Developments and Immediate Future Plans

The Garden reflects each of these aims:

1. To enhance the weekly nutritional content of participants’ diets.

Current Developments:

Along with 10 DPP participants and many of their children, we have planted a plethora of vegetables, from broccoli to brussel sprouts, chard to sun chokes. We have made an effort to cultivate as many varieties within a given vegetable as possible: purple, red, and orange carrots and tomatoes, or yellow and green string beans.

Participants who work at least 1.5 hours each week are eligible to receive a share of the Garden’s harvest. So far they have left with bunches of kale and rainbow chard, and as much dill as they can stomach. In the upcoming weeks they will continue to receive shares of chard, kale, and begin to bring home red leaf lettuce, green romaine lettuce, coriander seeds, and oregano.

Immediate Future Plans:

Participants will continue to receive shares of the weekly harvest.

We will replace the lettuce, chard, and kale with various winter squash varieties for harvest in September/October.

2. Provide additional opportunity for physical activity.

 Current Developments:

In service of this aim, we have refrained from adding any type of mulch to the garden beds. Participants are therefore compelled to use their physical strength to weed and loosen the soil around each plant. Participants also spend a good portion of their work time ensuring that the borders of the Garden, which have not received any maintenance, are kept clean.

They are responsible for all construction within the Garden, which has thus far included building tomato and bean trellises, as well as stone barriers for hazelnut seedlings.

The participants regularly build up a sweat, and drink a substantial amount of water as a result.

Immediate Future Plans:

Participants will continue to maintain the cleanliness of the garden, as well as remove all organic waist from its perimeter.

3. Create community among participants.

Current Developments:

Whereas during the nutrition and exercise components of the DPP program participants are relatively serious, the Garden tends to foster laugher, conversation, and play. Children dig holes and run around while their mothers attempt to teach them the difference between squash and grass. Last week, while taking a well-deserved break in the shade, participants shared about their grandparents, many of whom remain farmers in their various homelands.

We have recently established workday ‘captains’ who are responsible for communicating important information to participants about their designated workday. Through the phone chain we have learned about the recent deaths of a few participants’ relatives, life events that can greatly effect participants’ ability to meet their lifestyle goals, and yet may have otherwise remained unbeknownst to program administrators.

Immediate Future Plans:

We will host a garden party, where participants can share the various dishes they’ve created for a chosen vegetable.  

4. Expand participants’ knowledge and commitment to healthy foods.

Current Developments:

Because many of the Garden’s vegetables are new to participants, we have developed a weekly information sheet that we distribute with samples of the chosen ‘Veggie of the Week.’ The information sheets include nutrition facts, prices, and healthy recipe suggestions. We regularly inquire about how their families enjoyed the new vegetables, and ways they can increase consumption.

We have also planted a number of vegetables that participants are familiar with and indeed requested early on. They talk incessantly about the ways they will use the turnips in their tacos, or the medicinal benefits of our rosemary.

Immediate Future Plans:

Begin to collect recipes from participants themselves, and establish a compliation that they can take home at the end of the season.

5. Increase awareness and interest in FHCHC’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Current Developments:

In addition to the regular visits from passer-bys, Slow Food USA has recently requested the opportunity to profile the DPP Garden on their blog. Slow Food USA is a major food related nonprofit with over 16,000 members nationwide. They have also invited us to participate in their volunteer workday, which will take place around the country with projects similar to ours raising awareness about healthy foods and farming.

Local garden supply and hardware stores have donated a number of items and provided discounts upon hearing about the project.

Immediate Future Plans

Connect with local food-related organizations including the Yale Food Sustainability Project, City Seed, and Common Ground.

Increase blog action and Garden profiles.

DPP Community Garden Long-Term Goals

In the long term, we hope to turn over more and more of the garden’s leadership to the DPP participants. This will ensure that participants and their families are receiving the maximum benefit from the project.

We also hope to increase participation to include not only the majority of past participants, but future batches as well. The more that the Garden’s harvest can become a part of participants’ diets, the more effective the DPP program will be.

Lastly, through the use of social media, we plan on making the success of the DPP Community Garden public, and thereby a proper resource for community health clinics nationwide that are interested in establishing their own DPPs.


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