February 2020 – On January 28, County Commission Chair Lesley J. “Les” Miller Jr. was joined by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Tampa Councilman Orlando Gudes in celebrating the kick-off of the Garden Steps project, funded by a grant from the Aetna Foundation and American Public Health Association.
Led by the MPO and Coalition of Community Gardens, the Garden Steps project is an initiative to expand access to fresh, healthy food in Tampa’s food desert neighborhoods through education, agriculture, and walk/bike connections. The event’s title, “Making Stone Soup,” recalls a folktale about famine-struck villagers sharing one ingredient from each household to create a pot of good food none could have produced individually. To further inspire the meeting participants, MPO staff members Michele Ogilvie and Wanda West brought their own homemade contributions, carrot ginger soup, and muffins!
As in the folktale, the problem of access to fresh food is less insurmountable when many community members work together. The meeting’s participants represented agencies and civic groups that might not be in touch under other circumstances, and they spoke about opportunities for expanding connections, opportunities for other community gardens, and next steps.
Middleton High School staff announced their readiness to coordinate their planned school garden with the new garden on 22nd street. Representatives from Tampa Family Health Center, a medical facility on 22nd Street, were supportive and are eager to collaborate with the Garden Steps plan. Mrs. Ogilvie spoke about the vision of the garden’s educational mission and the Healthy Street concept. Green Artery attendees talked about establishing gardens along the proposed pathways. The entire group was excited about working together to make the community the healthiest city.
Mayor Castor presented a Proclamation declaring January 27 – February 2 Tampa Community Health Week, with an emphasis on Community Gardens and Health. Other community partners included Lutz Community Church, Meacham Urban Farm, Temple Terrace Community Garden, Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, Seffner Community Garden, Green Artery, Whitwam Organics, Hillsborough County Extension Office, Connect & Propel Tampa Bay, Senior Connection Center, Hillsborough Soil & Water Conservation District, the Florida Department of Health, and REAL Building Consultants.
Plans are underway for a 3rd Grow Gardens Conference on May 1-2, 2020. Contact Michele Ogilvie, email@example.com, or check back at PlanHillsborough.org for more information coming soon!