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History

From 2018-2020, the Grow Program worked with Access Community Health Centers (ACHC). Through this clinic-community partnership, we were able to provide fresh produce and nutrition education, at no cost, to over 700 individuals in South Madison.

We acted as a nutrition program where resource navigators and health care providers at the Access Community Health Centers directed patients for both food insecurity and nutrition education.

ACHC health care providers as well as resource navigators/specialists referred their patients to the Grow Program. We offered weekly Garden Baskets, which were picked up at Joyce and Marshall Erdman Access Clinic (2202 South Park St. Madison, WI) each Saturday morning from 10:30 AM -12:30 PM on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Garden Baskets

  • Filled with fresh, locally-sourced produce, were given out to patients & families enrolled in the program on a weekly basis, at no cost. Participants in the program attended either healthy cooking classes or partook in healthy engagement activities at our Garden Basket pickups to learn how to incorporate healthy eating into their lifestyle.

  • Our Saturday Produce Pickups (SPPs) brought fresh fruits and vegetables to community members for pick up. The fresh produce depended on the season and what our community partners had available. During the summer, we had hand-picked vegetables from the Farley Center that our volunteers grew and harvested. Participating in the SPPs did not require any referrals or enrollment prior to arriving on location.

Education 

  1. The health benefits of a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based (WFPB) diet

  2. How to cook culturally-relevant, healthy meals. Nutrition education was incorporated into healthy cooking classes and our garden baskets. We also provided outreach for other community resources that were available. For instance, we included local food pantry hour schedules and information about UW Extension FoodWIse's more extensive nutrition education classes, such as the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

Other Community Programs

  • Pediatric Fitness Group: This is a partnership with Erdman Access Clinic. They host Thursday night group fitness classes for families in South Madison and we provide produce baskets for their program with produce donated from Second Harvest. 

  • African American Women's Fitness Group: This is a partnership with Fabu Carter who holds a fitness class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We provide a healthy snack cooking demo at the Thursday night class.

Community Facts

  • Diabetes, hypertension, and obesity were the three most prevalent illnesses in the Wingra patient community. CHVM and the Access Community Health Centers recognized the importance of healthy nutrition in preventing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cancer.

  • Wingra patients indicated that learning more about nutrition was their highest health priority in a 2015 survey conducted at Wingra. As a result, The Grow Program incorporated nutrition education materials into its garden baskets and offered healthy cooking classes that provided patients with a hands-on learning experience for incorporating healthy eating into their lifestyle.

  • We increased inclusion by ensuring the attendance of Spanish- and English-speaking volunteers at each Grow Program event. We worked to accommodate all language barriers through our text messaging system and sought out language interpretation services through the university for Swahili. 

The Grow Program Origins

  • The original idea of providing produce to the community stemmed from a Community Health Volunteers (CHVM) of Madison subcommittee called the Market Basket Program. In a 2015 survey, Wingra Family Medical Center found that the number one need, as described by patients, was nutrition information. To try and meet this need, Market Basket Program sold paper grocery bags filled with produce to patients of Wingra Family Medical Center at a reduced price. In 2017, this program dissolved, and the Grow Program soon developed in 2018.

  • One may think the Grow Program name was created in the horticulture building; however, of all places, it was thought of by STEM majors in the physics building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As we rattled off words associated with health, food, and communities, we stumbled upon the word “grow”. While Grow Program at the time was just a name, we quickly learned just how central the idea of growth was to our program’s goals, and it began to shape our mission. We now strive to “Grow Community, Grow Healthy, and Grow Together.”

Although the Grow Program has a short history, we have networked with community partners and members and have established strong relationships. We are grateful to have the resources and partnerships to provide our program to anyone in need within the Madison community. We value physical and emotional wellness and place an emphasis on treating all with dignity and respect.

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