DHEC breaks ground on Community Demonstration Garden

May 2, 2022

From L-R: Berry Kelly, Director of Community Nutrition Services; Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director; and Joycelyn Price, Nutrition Education Specialist

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) held a groundbreaking ceremony today, April 29, for its new Community Demonstration Garden project.

The garden is the vision of the Bureau of Community Nutrition Services SNAP-Ed team,  the Community Health Services team led by Nick Davidson and is fully supported by DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer and Berry Kelly, Director of the Bureau of Community Nutrition Services.

The purpose of a demonstration garden is to show how engaging the community to create a garden can supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the community, increase access to healthy food, improve diet and promote a healthy lifestyle.​

“Across South Carolina we have food deserts in rural and urban areas,” Dr. Simmer said. “Food deserts are areas that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This limits the ability of community members to enjoy the nutritional benefits of fresh foods that are essential to healthy living and disease prevention.

Located on the front lawn of 2100 Bull St., the garden will feature a mixture of fruits and vegetables year-round. The harvest will be donated to the Columbia Housing Authority and other charities and be used at SNAP-Ed tastings during nutrition education classes.

Going into the ground first will be okra, lettuce, a variety of beans, sweet potatoes, squash, watermelon and more. DHEC’s Community Health Services team is using the project to develop educational materials for communities and schools on how to plant and grow a successful community or backyard garden.

“Often the most effective way to help people improve their health is to give them the tools to help themselves,” Simmer said. “By helping those in food deserts create community gardens, we are helping ensure these communities have a sustainable way to provide healthy food choices for themselves and their families.”