Good things from a community garden

University Health System’s Texas Diabetes Institute celebrated the opening of its new community garden this week by hosting a health fair for National Diabetes Alert Day. The fair offered free glucose screenings, cooking demonstrations and other community resources centered around the garden, the result of a partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank.

While TDI has achieved much in serving the community with diabetes treatment, research and prevention, said Theresa De La Haya, senior vice president of community health and service line programs at University Health System, it’s only the beginning.

“We still have a big task ahead of us,” Ms. De La Haya said. “This day is about making people aware that diabetes is a huge problem in our community and that we are a solution to that problem.”

One important solution is improving diets, and the garden is another way to do that, she noted, thanking the San Antonio Food Bank for its work in redesigning and planting the garden. Food Bank experts built raised beds and chose vegetables and fruits selected for their contributions to the balanced diet that helps people manage glucose levels.

TDI staff will maintain the garden, which is already on its second round of production. Food Bank representatives will check in monthly to monitor progress and make recommendations. The nutritionists at TDI use the produce to demonstrate healthy ways of cooking foods that are easy to grow in this area, but the garden is also open to the community.

The Food Bank is working with partners around the city to encourage this kind of gardening because healthy eating is key in resolving food insecurity, said Dawn Thurmond, director of communications for the San Antonio Food Bank.

It can be difficult to reconcile soaring obesity rates with food insecurity, which people often associate with lack of food, Ms. Thurmond said. But in reality it’s often cheaper and more convenient for a family with scarce resources to consume high-calorie, low-nutrition processed meals. That kind of steady diet can contribute to obesity and poor health.

“We find it easier to buy a box of Hamburger Helper and feed a family of four than to buy strawberries or cabbages” for the same amount of money, she said. The Food Bank’s goal is to educate people on healthy food preparation techniques and improve access to fresh vegetables, she said.

That makes for a natural partnership with the Texas Diabetes Institute, which shares that goal.