Pathways: Community Garden Allows Family Medicine Program to Address Local Food Insecurities
Paulo Michelini, MD, chief resident with the Family and Community Medicine Residency Program, led the effort to establish a community garden near the UICOMP campus this summer. This summer’s garden is the first of many for the green space adjacent to the UICOMP visitor’s parking lot.
“This is a difficult environment for health food and access to fresh, nutritious food,” he says. “We wanted a way to serve our patients more by providing fresh food. Utilizing this land made sense for the production of fresh produce as well as beautification of the space.”
The fruits of their labor helps more than just the citizens of downtown Peoria. “This garden can also help our medical students who sometimes face their own food insecurity. After you consider the cost of school and paying rent, students may not be able to afford healthy food,” explains Michelini.
Last fall, the project launched thanks to a grant from the UnityPoint Health Methodist-Proctor Foundation. That funding allowed the garden planning and creation to begin.
Synergy for the project came from Drs. Kelvin Wynn, Anton Grasch, Dejan Maksimovic, and McKenzie Wiley as well as a joint research project on culinary medicine by Michelini and Wiley.
Bob Streitmatter with Luthy Botanical Garden helped create the master plan by focusing on low maintenance, native plants. This includes raised beds for seasonal vegetables and fruits and a food forest with fruit trees, ranging from peaches, pears and apples to lesser known persimmons, service berry, and chokeberry.
Future plans for the space include an outdoor classroom as well as raised beds that community members may be able to put to use to grow their own garden.