Outdoor Adventure Team Launches Community Garden to Promote Healthy Living

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a number of new hobbies all over the country, including at-home fitness, art and food projects, and the rise of “plant-parents” as home gardening became the next big thing to pass the time during lockdown. Keeping this new and popular interest in mind, the USO HRCV Outdoor Adventure Team (OAT) launched a Community Garden as an effort to promote community and healthy living and eating for service members and their families.

OAT is a peer-led health and wellness program designed for service members and their families to connect over physical challenges AND adventure to encourage sustainable healthy living. Currently, this Community Garden is placed at the OAT studio as a supplemental food resource. It features winter vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots, spinach and beets.

As a gardener herself, OAT Program Director, Vicky West, understands the benefits of launching this new program. “There’s a psychological benefit and community aspect to the garden, and many of our wounded warriors find it therapeutic,” says West.

“This is truly a shared garden experience that the whole family can get excited about. I notice kids are more likely to eat a vegetable that they grow. We are trying to grow a rainbow garden so families can eat a more colorful plate.”

Service members and their families can stop by the OAT studio on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Fort Story and take what they need to make healthy meals at home. They are also encouraged to spend time caring for the plants as a way to bond with each other and the community. Aside from the Community Garden, the OAT studio has a number of offerings such as community workouts, resilience training, and more.

West explains that she’d love for the OAT Community Garden to be the first of many gardens that USO HRCV hosts.

“If all goes well, I’d love to expand this to other USO HRCV centers so families all over can literally enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

This Community Garden would not be possible without the generosity of local individuals. One family donated seeds to jumpstart the garden and in the future, West would like to see more community support to expand the garden.

Monetary donations and in-kind support such as gardening tools and containers would be extremely helpful, but even those that are not in the position to offer that can support by giving their time to volunteer and manage the plants. It will take a community effort for the garden to thrive.”

For more information on the Community Garden or the OAT program, such as operation hours, ways to support, and more, contact Vicky West at vwest@uso.org

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