Gardening and Outreach to New Americans in Indianapolis

Perry Township, Indianapolis, has the largest community of Burmese refugees in the United States.  Most of the refugees were settled in this south side Indianapolis community during the last 15 years.  Currently, there are about 15,000 Burmese residents living in this community and the rates of family and child poverty are very high. Adult & Child is a mental health provider in the community that is working with Burmese mental health patients.  Adult & Child approached the Healthy South Side Physical Activity and Nutrition Team to seek technical assistance and advice on starting a community garden for the Burmese community. Since gardening is a large part of the Burmese culture, Adult & Child believes that they can help their patients in healing while also building community relationships for them with the larger Burmese community.

By having a community garden, the patients and other Burmese participants can grow culturally preferred food for their own use at home; easing a food access issue for participating gardeners. One half of the garden beds would serve the participating families and the other half of the garden beds would be worked by the participants with all the harvested produce from those beds being donated to a food pantry serving other Burmese refugees.

Purdue Extension Agriculture Program Assistant, Virginia Roberts, worked with the Garden Master on designing the size and needs of the community garden.  She created a supply list, garden dimensions, and initial building supply needs.  Adult and Child used this information to create their budget and plan for the community garden.  Linda Adams, Community Wellness Coordinator, assisted with locating local grant funds and recruited volunteers to assist with the initial building of the concrete block raised garden beds. Adult & Child applied for several grants and recruited donations from local businesses. Many organizations came forward with donations and grants including Adult & Child, Tyner Pond Farms, McCarthy Mulch and Stone, IU Health, Franciscan Health, and the city of Indianapolis. Linda also identified a local food pantry that is serving Burmese clients on a regular basis, Mt. Pleasant Impact Center, to assist in distributing the excess produce.