Live Healthy Houma aims to ‘make it easy for people to live healthy’
Live Healthy Houma, a part of LSU AgCenter’s Healthy Communities initiative, is helping local, lower-income families eat healthier by not only making fresh produce more accessible but also by giving them the knowledge and tools needed to grow it themselves.
“[Healthy Communities] starts by choosing a community and then holding a needs assessment,” said Amanda Gibson, nutrition agent with the LSU AgCenter and facilitator of Live Healthy Houma. “Terrebonne Parish has a high obesity rate; it’s at 39 percent…That can lead to a bunch of different health issues.”
“So, we invited the public to attend and talk about what their obstacles for eating healthy were. We talked about the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of the downtown Houma area,” Gibson continued. “And one of the things they said was there was a lack of access to fresh produce, and they wanted a community garden to combat that.”
Live Healthy Houma then formed through a partnership with several local entities, including St. Francis Vegetable Garden, Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government Planning and Zoning, Houma Downtown Development Corporation, Ascent Health, St. Francis Vegetable Garden, Terrebonne General Medical Center, Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center, Keep Terrebonne Beautiful, Terrebonne Parish Library System, South Louisiana Seed Co, Bags of Hope, Houma Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Houma Beauty, Zealous Leadership Association and The Conveaux.
The major contributor for the community garden in Downtown Houma is St. Francis Vegetable Garden, along with the different organizations that sponsored garden beds.
“We found a bunch of community sponsors who each sponsored one garden bed. So now we have 25 garden beds,” she said. “The produce from there is actually going to go to kids who are in need in the area.”
Having 25 garden beds full of produce for local children in need is a major feat, but the work group didn’t stop there.
“We didn’t just want to give people produce; we wanted to teach people how to do this at home,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of like the old saying, ‘Why give man a fish when you can teach them how to fish.’ It’s just more impactful.”
In November, Live Healthy Houma initiated the Greauxing at Home program, a series of free lessons that taught local participants how to grow and preserve their own produce. The inaugural class also learned healthy cooking methods and the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables.
“We had seven adults, but a lot of the adults brought their children, which was a really cool experience. The kids were really engaged as well because we believe gardening is a family experience,” Gibson said. “It’s also a great way to be physically active. So, if you’re involving your whole family in it, too, there’s only positives there.”
In addition to the skills and knowledge they received, all who completed the program obtained a free Good2Greaux Kit that included gardening, preservation and cooking tools.
“They absolutely loved it,” Gibson said. “It really engaged them and made them want to be in the garden. That’s a success to me.”
The next Greauxing at Home series in Downtown Houma will be in March, Gibson said, and the program will be replicated at other St. Frances gardens as well.
Earlier this year, the downtown corner store Houma Beauty partnered with Live Healthy to become a Stock Healthy, Shop Healthy location, introducing healthier grocery goods into its community. The store is now equipped with fresh produce, healthier snack alternatives and signage to help educate its patrons on the benefits of eating healthier.
Live Healthy Houma is also working on creating activities throughout downtown Houma that will help people be physically active.
The Healthy Communities initiative is expanding to Thibodaux, too. LSU AgCenter will host a needs assessment meeting at the Thibodaux Regional Wellness Center on Jan. 9 at 5:30 p.m. Food and childcare will be available at the meeting.
“We’re going to hear what the community has to say, and we’re going to form a work group and make some changes,” Gibson said. “Our main goal with Live Healthy Houma and all of these healthy communities is to change policies, systems and the environment to make it easy for people to live healthy.”