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Sun Sentinel: Chris Allen: Thumbs up to community-based green spaces

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

As Florida’s garden enthusiasts begin tending their backyard vegetable plots and community gardens, the disconnection from today’s youth to cultivating gardens and green spaces is more evident.

Between around-the-clock access to mobile devices and today’s online culture, young people devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to daily media use, or about 53 hours a week — more than a full-time job.

Alarmingly, more than one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. are also overweight or obese — a direct result of less outdoor and physical activity, like gardening, and the consumption of processed and fast foods.

Increasing access, especially in urban settings, to gardens and parks can truly help change the landscape of our society and the shape of our people. Gardening and community green spaces foster healthy habits, reduce crime rates and improve residents’ feelings of safety and well-being. Cultivating neighborhood gardens and parks also increases property values, jump-starts neighborhood revitalization, encourages human and intergenerational interaction, helps families reconnect to nature, and benefits our environment and waterways.

So it’s time to put down our electronic gadgets and fast food and return to growing our own vegetables and stewarding our public gardens, parks and urban forests.

Since 2011, ScottsMiracle-Gro has been supporting the development of community-based green spaces as part of our GRO1000 program. In partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, we’ve made a commitment to support 1,000 community gardens and pocket parks by providing the funding, products and expertise these vital public and natural resources need to grow and thrive.

Last week, hundreds of community and ScottsMiracle-Gro volunteers joined me and Mayor Lori Moseley at the Miramar Community Garden — a micro-urban-farm where families, seniors and students learn about the sources of fresh produce and the importance of environmental stewardship.

Together, we rolled up our sleeves and expanded the garden by adding a fruit grove, a culinary herb garden, a seedling nursery, an outdoor classroom and raised planting beds. Our investment in Miramar’s Community Garden will also result in expanded resources for local gardeners including culinary, horticulture and agricultural workshops.

In Florida, our GRO1000 grant program is part of a larger initiative to invest in research, education and the benefits of healthy lawns and gardens. Not only do green spaces provide a sense of community and well-being, but they are also a vital element of our ecosystem working all the time to absorb water and nutrients, purify the air and keep our water clean.

So step out your front door and join us in getting back to our gardening roots — together we can grow something greater.

Chris Allen is the South Region president of the ScottsMiracle-Gro company.

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