Asheville – For many, adult coloring books are a way to destress. With the pandemic confining people to their homes, coloring books for all ages surged in popularity. Now, Western North Carolinians can unwind while alleviating food insecurity in Asheville. Asheville Parks & Recreation collaborated with area nonprofits and agencies and local artists through a new adult coloring book, In the Garden. The beautifully illustrated pages connect residents with food resources and community gardens.
“The City of Asheville received a grant from the National Recreation and Park Association to promote local resources and provide nutrition education and community gardening opportunities,” said Kim Kennedy, Manager of Stephen-Lee Community Center in a press release. “We collaborated with other community organizations on innovative ways to utilize the grant. Buncombe County Council on Aging had the idea to create an adult coloring book featuring interpretations of community gardens by Asheville-area artists and storytellers.”
In the Garden spotlights 10 community gardens and provides information for ways to volunteer, find food and meal sites and connect with resources to relieve food insecurity. Fifteen artists illustrated pieces that represent garden locations, some of which are accompanied by a piece of personal history. Each artist brings their own unique style to the page—their biographies and contact information are also included.
“As trusted gathering places, park and recreation agencies are uniquely suited to serve as community wellness hubs, connecting every member of the community to essential programs, services and spaces that advance health equity, improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life,” said Maureen Neuman, Senior Program Manager of the National Recreation and Park Association in a press release. “We are proud to support the work of Asheville Parks & Recreation as it steps into the role of community nutrition hub, ensuring all members of the community have increased access to fresh, local foods through community gardens, SNAP and WIC benefit assistance, and nutrition education opportunities.”
Asheville’s community gardens are tended by neighbors who find common ground while committing to bettering their city through sustainability and food security. Residents can volunteer as little or as much as they’d like—some volunteer weekly while others pitch in once a year.
Typically, harvested food is dispersed amongst volunteers and the excess is donated to local food pantries. Nonprofits also connect the resources to neighbors in need of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables. So far, the NRPA grant has been used to establish two new gardens. One is in the East End/Valley Street neighborhood and the other is at the Burton Street Community Center.
Food Insecurity in AVL
According to a 2015 study on food insecurity conducted by a UNC research group, 14 percent of Buncombe County residents experience food insecurity and 22 percent of children live in food-insecure homes. That is 34,340 individuals without reliable access to their next meal. The City of Asheville’s Food Action Plan recognizes the presence of food deserts and works to implement multiple avenues to combat them. These include pop-up and mobile farmer’s markets, community gardens and transit vouchers to food sites. Those living in food deserts, without access to healthy food, are at higher risk of diet-related conditions including obesity, malnourishment, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Food deserts have root causes in proximity to supermarkets, community segregation on the basis of income or race, access to a vehicle and several other societal factors.
Pick Up a Copy
Complimentary copies of In the Garden are available at community centers throughout Asheville. A PDF of the book and a food resources map are available on www.ashevillenc.gov/parks under the “wellness” tab. Artists contributing to the adult coloring book include Jami Allen, Robyn Baxter, Julie Becker, Annie Kyla Bennett, Hannah Bunzey, Erika Busse, Sam Fontaine, Jina Mendez Martin, Ryan O’Sullivan, Stephanie Peterson Jones, Jenny Pickens, Karine Rupp-Stanko, Elizabeth Somerville, Tricia Tripp and Nicole Leigh Yates. Collaborators on the project with the City of Asheville include Buncombe County, Bountiful Cities, Buncombe County Council on Aging, MANNA FoodBank, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County and YMCA of Western North Carolina.