Next to an asphalt parking lot in north Spokane, a
group of single mothers made plans for sweet peas, carrots and pumpkins on
Jill Murray, 28, pushed a rototiller through the
empty lot, churning the grass into soil. Jesika Fowler, 22, helped build frames
for five vegetable beds. Nearby, toddlers dipped drinking cups into a mound of
black soil and dumped them into a wheelbarrow.
"It's not even going to be a bath tonight," one
mother said, sighing. "It's going to be mud."
The urban garden, behind Summit View Apartments at
820 N. Summit Blvd., was the idea of Fowler, whose sons love vegetables. She
said she'd heard of other community gardens around the city.
"I said, `Why couldn't we do that here?"' Fowler
The women received help from the Spokane Regional
Health District and Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest. A
landscaping company donated soil, and local greenhouses are planning to provide
seedlings for planting in May.
The health district's Growing Neighborhood Action
Team used funding from a University of Washington grant to pay for supplies. The
program works to increase awareness about obesity.
Nationwide, the percent of overweight children ages 6
to 19 has tripled since 1980. In Spokane County, the number of obese adults rose
from 14 percent to 26 percent in the past three years.
"It seems that children are more likely to eat fruits
and vegetables if they have been part of the growing process," said Heleen
Dewey, planning director for the health district. "Healthy habits are developed
early in life."
Fowler said her children like fresh fruits and
vegetables, but her limited budget can make them seem prohibitively costly.
"We all have the same goal, which is to give our
children fresh fruit and
vegetables," she said. "But they're expensive."
Murray said she spends about $250 a month on food for
her family. She planned to plant tomatoes, carrots and peas.
"This will save so much money," she said. "If we can
save on veggies, we can spend more on meat."
Skyler York, a community gardens coordinator for
Second Harvest, said each of the five beds would provide enough produce for
three people for the summer.
In addition to the Summit View garden, York is
working on individual gardens with about 20 families -- most of whom were on a
waiting list from last summer. He also plans to open a 30-bed community garden
in northwest Spokane.
"At some point," he said, "I'd like to see community
gardens in every neighborhood."