Consider the old adage, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish; he’ll eat for a lifetime.” This is the mantra at the Johnson County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Community Gardens. The WIC Gardens empower and educate low income clients enrolled in the WIC program to grow their own food and supplies them with healthy, nutritious fresh produce throughout the growing season. In addition to hands-on learning in the garden, clients can watch cooking demonstrations in the lobby of the WIC office and pick up seasonal recipes.
Each Tuesday morning during the growing season, WIC clients, community volunteers and Johnson County Government employees work side by side sowing seeds, pulling weeds and harvesting produce. The level of appreciation for this project is evident when WIC clients haul home a grocery sack full of fresh produce, but the long term impact from this project is a healthier population and an empowered community.
There are two WIC Community Gardens, located at both Johnson County Department of Health and Environment office locations in Olathe and Mission. The Olathe location replaced an ignored field of grass with a place to gather, learn and grow. Since its creation in 2013, the Olathe WIC Community Garden has harvested almost 6,000 pounds of produce. The Mission WIC Community Garden is in its first year of production. Each year, produce is distributed to over 500 WIC families.
The current federal stipend for fruits and vegetables to nursing and pregnant women enrolled in the WIC program is $10 per month, and children only receive $6 per month. While clients appreciate this help, the WIC Community Gardens provide an additional opportunity for them to get fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Olathe WIC Community Garden was started through a grant from the Kansas Community Gardens Project, a joint initiative of the Kansas Health Foundation and K-State Research and Extension. The WIC Community Gardens also receive support from many community partners and volunteers.
If you would like to volunteer at the WIC Community Gardens, you may sign-up here. Gardeners of all experience levels are welcome to volunteer.