African American Mental Health and Wellness (AMEN) team is collaborating with KAZI FM 88.7 in producing a radio series to highlight the importance of addressing mental health and physical wellness in the African American community. The monthly series will feature AMEN team members from the School of Nursing, leaders from Mt. Zion Baptist and Rehoboth Baptist churches, and community organizations who provide mental health resources and support in Travis county.
Episode 11: A Shared Approach to Holistic Health: Community Gardens
Co-moderators Shannon W. Jones and Jacki Hecht, interviewed Pastor Ray Hendricks, Rehoboth Baptist Church, Ms. Angela Bigham, Health Ministry Leader at Rehoboth Baptist Church and Ms. Deborah Duncan (LMSW), Program Coordinator with the City of Austin/Austin Public Health Department’s Health Equity and Community Engagement Unit and the sponsor of KAZI’s “Health Talk”.
Pastor Hendricks joined Rehoboth Baptist Church 15 years ago with the vision of, “…feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.” To make this vision a reality, the church appointed Wellness Director, Sister Angela Bigham. Through collaborative efforts a community garden was created with the intention of addressing health from a holistic perceptive for Rehoboth Baptist Church congregants and the local community. Pastor Hendricks highlighted the idea of being a “one stop shop for health”, addressing physical, mental and spiritual health. The garden is located at 5303 Samuel Huston Ave, Austin, TX 78721, towards the back of Rehoboth Baptist Church parking lot.
Ms. Bigham highlighted that volunteers from Rehoboth Baptist church, local churches, and supporters such as, Deborah Duncan come to work the garden weekly or when notified via monthly communications and outreach efforts led by Ms. Bigham. She went on to say, “They volunteer to water and even some of our deacons come out and they water…we have a good little team.” They have good support, yet want to encourage new volunteers to join them in their efforts. To get more information about the community garden, email Angela Bigham.
Benefits of Growing a Garden during the Pandemic
Ms. Bigham echoed Pastor Hendricks’ sentiment, “It’s a one stop shop and for mental health...we are cooped up in the house for so many hours, it really feels good to be out there in that atmosphere…” For Ms. Bigham, the garden promotes exercise, and spiritually she is able to see how God takes one little seed and makes something beautiful to feed many. Also, she is able to release herself mentally, “let go and be with nature.” She encourages people to come out to the garden to get exercise while staying safe, given their ability to physically distance themselves to work on different areas in the garden.
Pastor Hendricks added, “It brings a good fellowship from different churches.” He described one person who started working in the garden and then joined Rehoboth Baptist Church.
Learning about Nutrition and How the Garden Supports Healthy Eating
Ms. Duncan shared, “When you have your own garden…you can go from the ground to the plate”. She also mentions how often times when we buy from the grocery store we don’t know how long the produce has been on the shelves and how long it will last when we bring it home. Ms. Duncan said, “We teach people all the nutritional value of fresh foods and what they do for the body and how they can help prevent chronic disease and how people can even treat their chronic diseases with fresh fruits and vegetables.” They teach people about a holistic approach using nutrition and food guidelines provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), ChooseMyPlate.
How does this fit with Austin Public Health’s Mission: Promoting Health Equity and Community Engagement?
Ms. Duncan acknowledged the 15 leading causes of death in Travis County are chronic diseases such as, diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and now COVID. Austin Public Health combines education, health promotion and prevention by way of looking at food portion sizes and eating fresh foods that heal their bodies. Austin Public Health collaborates with local churches to provide educational learning and has been working with Rehoboth Baptist Church for 3 years offering cooking classes that engage participants in learning about nutritional values and how they can benefit. Please visit Austin Public Health to gain access to Austin Public Health programs.
Shannon Jones added “healthy food makes a healthy body; a healthy body makes a healthy individual. So by eating healthy in a variety of ways as has been outlined here, you have the likelihood of having a longer, healthier life, and having a more productive life, as well.”
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