Community Garden Updates from Voices into Action Project

August 19, 2015

Want to learn about some great community garden projects in North Carolina?  Our friends at Voices into Action: The Families, Food, and Health Project have funded several community garden mini-grant projects.  Here’s an update on two of those gardens in Lee County.

Originally posted by Voices into Action here.

by Zandra Alford

As the 2014 mini-grant funding cycle comes to an end, we would like to take this time to thank our partnering organizations for increasing access to healthy and affordable foods and safe places to be active in Lee County. Over the next few months, we will conduct end of year evaluations and will post a brief summary. Check out the Cameron Grove AME Zion Church Community Garden and the Peace and Unity Community Garden!

Cameron Grove Community Garden

Cameron Grove Community Garden (CGCG) recently planted a new crop of herbs, tomatoes, squash, peppers, and more, after a successful harvest of vegetables last season. Annie McIver, the garden organizer, showed us six raised beds with young plants, including some planted by the Cameron Grove AME Zion Church Youth Group.  Annie and fellow garden volunteers have also recently planted a traditional garden bed to supplement the food grown in the raised garden plots.  The food grown in the garden is shared with church members, nearby food pantries, and community members who can benefit from the fresh fruits and veggies. Last year, CGCG donated over 50 bunches of collards to the community, as well as other vegetables. The garden also features two rain barrels to conserve water, and compost from the City of Sanford to improve the growth of the plants. This year, CGCG will be adding an additional six garden beds. Volunteers work in the garden and transport the harvest to food pantries and community members. Thank you to Annie, Cameron Grove AME Zion, and all the volunteers who make the garden possible!

Cameron Grove Raised Garden Beds

Cameron Grove Traditional Garden Bed

Shaded spot in the Cameron Grove Garden

Cameron Grove Community Garden -  Growing Seedling with rain water barrel in background

Peace and Unity Community Garden

The Peace and Unity Community Garden is a tranquil place where community members work together to grow food for their families and others in their community. The garden consists of two growing areas: Peace and Unity. In Peace, garden plots are available for anyone who wants to grow and maintain their own space; while in Unity, community members work together to grow fresh produce to give as donations to organizations that feed the community. Fruit trees have also been recently planted in Unity and community members are working on caring for the young trees in order to cultivate a variety of fruit for years to come. The growing season has already begun at the Peace and Unity Community Garden, as many families and community members have already planted seeds and plantlings and are now working to nurture and maintain their plots. The garden hosts community workdays when people can come together to work on their individual plots in Peace, as well as volunteer in the community plots in Unity.   In addition to supporting their on-going gardening efforts, this year the Peace and Unity Community Garden will use their mini-grant funds to create space at the garden for children and families to play and relax. They will be setting up recreation activities such as tether ball, horse shoes and corn hole in order to give kids a space to be active while parents and other community members work in the garden. The garden also plans to host an upcoming Day in the Garden Event that will welcome the greater community to come visit and celebrate the garden. Thank you to Crystal McIver, Alfreda Clegg-Spivey and all the community members and volunteers who make the garden possible!

Peace and Unity Community Garden - Ramada with Picnic Tables

Peace and Unity Community Garden - Peace Garden

Peace and Unity Community Garden - Unity Garden

Peace and Unity Community Garden - Fruit Trees

Try a Pita Pocket Sandwich

August 12, 2015

Note: This was originally posted by the North Carolina Expanded Food and Nutrition Program here.

Sandwiches are a common staple food on a lunchbox menu for children, but I’ve noticed sandwiches have gotten a reputation as being boring or bland because children get tired of eating the same old sandwich for lunch every day. Sure, spreading some peanut butter and jelly on bread or just slapping on a few cold cuts makes for a tasty and easy meal, but eating that every day can make sandwiches less appealing. Get creative with new sandwich recipes and combinations to make lunch a meal that your child (and you) will look forward to!

Here are some tips on how to expand your sandwich selections:

  • Swap the usual sandwich bread for a tortilla, open-faced flatbread, or pita pocket. Aim for a whole-wheat option for added fiber, vitamins, and minerals!
  •  Try adding different vegetables (or even fruits!) for variety and color.
  • Have leftovers? Think about how you could put them together to create a unique sandwich.
  • Avocado, in small portions, is a healthy alternative to a popular sandwich condiment: mayonnaise. Mash up an avocado and mix it with plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt to make a creamy spread for your sandwiches. Add lemon or lime juice for extra flavor!

Corner Kick Pita Pocket

Makes 2 servings Serving Size: 1/2 pita pocket


  •  ½ cup spinach, trimmed leaves
  • ¼ cup cucumber, sliced
  • ¼ cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon salsa
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free Ranch salad dressing
  •  1 (6 ½) inch pita pocket
  • 4 oz. extra-lean ground beef (5% fat), cooked
  • 1 cup cantaloupe, cubed


  1.  Combine beef, spinach, cucumber, and carrots with salsa and Ranch dressing. Mix well.
  2. Cut pita in half. Using your finger, slowly open the pocket so as not to tear the bread.
  3. Divide beef and veggie mix in half and place in each pocket half.
  4. Serve each pocket with ½ cup cantaloupe.


Who says sandwiches are only for lunch? I’m having this for dinner tonight!


Cara is an EFNEP student intern.

Gardening 101 – Final Post, Funding your Project!

March 13, 2015

by Maryam Funmilayo

file8271306993793Welcome back to the final series of gardening 101. I hope you have started brainstorming on what, where, when, and how to plant, as the spring season is fast approaching.  I recently attended the Dig In! Event at the Marbles Kids’ Museum.  Experienced and novice gardeners, farmers, Master Gardeners, school teachers, and various community members, were all attendees at the event. It was a well-attended and successful event.  People shared success stories on how their empty lands became flourishing gardens.

As I mentioned in the very beginning of this garden series, this final part will be about organizations that are involved in giving free monetary grants to new or existing gardens. So, there is no need to worry if money is an issue for starting a garden. Below are 4 organizations that you can tap into if you are interested in starting a community or school garden.

  1. Project Learning Tree –
  2. Kitchen Gardeners International –
  3. Kids Gardening –
  4. Whole Kids Foundation –

There are so many others besides these four organizations. You can also ask community and school members for monetary and in-kind donations. It’s important to remember that not only finances are needed to start a sustainable garden.  For a successful garden campaign, approach and recruit volunteers who are willing to work and maintain the garden. Volunteers can range from elementary school children to senior citizens. You also need adequate humanpower, dedication, interest, zeal, and most importantly, a community of people who are ready to eat smart, move more, and feel good!

Maryam Funmilayo is a Program Assistant with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  She teaches Faithful Families classes to the adult female members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh (IAR).

Gardening 101 – Part Three

file000940283052Welcome back to the gardening series! I hope you’ve been thinking deeply on how to start a garden with your family and friends. Starting small is always key and one of the best pieces of advice given by the Master Gardeners.  They advised that you start a container garden if you are very new into gardening or if you can’t afford the space or time to take care of a larger garden.

This post focuses on key health benefits that come along with gardening, including how your body, mind, and soul are maintained while working out on a garden. Physically, your body is moving and muscles, bones, and nerves are all at work. The stretches you make while digging, weeding, planting, and harvesting are all good for the body. Gardening is also therapeutic for the mind and soul because it serves as a de-stressor.  The mind and soul are both at ease and focused during gardening instead of being restless.  These are healthy benefits to the body in the physical sense. However, there is much more to know about the health benefits of the foods we plant, and the impact on our bodies.

Here are six simple reasons why we need to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, including three powerhouse herbs that you should know and grow in your garden:

  1. Fruits and vegetables contain some “miracle” substances that help reduce high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, and some cancers.
  2. Fruits and vegetables are known to have low or no calories at all. So, snacking on them makes you feel full and look fit!
  3. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and aid in digestion.
  4. Fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of diabetes.
  5. Vegetables, especially the dark leafy green ones, are good for strong bones.
  6. Not only are fruits and vegetables good for our diets, but they are also great for our outer skin and hair!

As for the three powerhouse herbs you should know and grow, why not start with cilantro, mint, and parsley! There are more powerhouse herbs and spices that one can plant along with fruits and vegetables.  I’ll provide more information in the gardening series part four.

Stay tuned…

Maryam Funmilayo is a Program Assistant with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  She teaches Faithful Families classes to the adult female members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh (IAR).

Make Valentine’s Day Healthy and Happy

by Lorelei Jones

heartRipplesWhen you think about a special Valentine’s Day celebration, what comes to your mind first?  Was it the chocolate or the dinner?  Probably not.  It was more likely a sweet message from a dear friend or family member, a simple note, a kind gesture, or a fond memory of time spent together.

Rather than load your loved ones up on candy and extra calories, why not give your Valentine a gift they will really remember.  Even on Valentine’s Day, you can make healthy choices that show you care.

  • Write a love note to your child and place it in their backpack or lunch box.
  • Plan to spend time together being active.  If the weather allows, go for a walk or teach your children a game you played when you were their age.  If weather doesn’t permit, plan a special indoor activity that all of you enjoy doing.  It can be as simple as dancing to your favorite tunes.
  • Cook a healthy meal together.  Exchange Valentine notes you make for each other during the meal.
  • Give children stickers, raisins, or pencils for Valentine gifts rather than candy.

 If you would like more ideas to make your Valentine’s Day both healthy and happy, check out these suggestions from the American Heart Association!

Lorelei Jones is the North Carolina Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Coordinator at North Carolina State University.