ONTARIO, California – In Ontario, part of Anthony Munoz Park has been converted into a community garden. It was a project powered by Elizabeth McSwain’s vision and green thumb.
Now the Seeds of Joy Community Garden is a place where low-income families in Ontario can grow, care and harvest their own produce for free. The garden currently supports 31 families. The aim of the project is to break down the barriers to a healthy life.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve social justice, which means that the residents there now treat their neighbors differently,” said McSwain.
Jeanette Seneviratne was the first to receive a garden plot.
âIt taught me about different kinds of herbs and spices as well as teas and fruits and vegetables that [I] I could take it home and use it to cook fresh fruit for the kids and my husband, âshe said.
McSwain has learned firsthand how health problems in lower-income families can be changed through improved access to healthier food options.
“She just shared the power of not having to decide whether to use her income to buy organic produce, but actually pay a bill,” said McSwain.
She hopes the garden will provide products to hundreds of families by the end of 2022.
“It takes a village that would not be possible without the cooperation of all of our partners,” said McSwain.
Al Boling worked for the city of Ontario for years, and when he retired he helped McSwain bring that vision to life.
“Oh, it was remarkable to see the energy and excitement Liz brings to a project like this to ensure its sustainability, not just in the plants,” said Boling, “but simply in living through all the lives that can influenced and changed by teaching healthy habits, fitness, yoga, zumba, meditation and just eating habits. “
McSwain works hard to maintain the concept of healthy living above the ground too. Through her own Caramel Connections Foundation, she created a community calendar full of gardening and cooking classes, health seminars, and fitness activities. The foundation intends to present a holistic approach to health and wellness education.
“Why? Because every day we are reborn. And the only thing that matters is what we do today. As a family, we feel that if we make money in a community, we should give something back,” said McSwain .
For more information on the Seeds of Joy and other wellness programs related to the community garden, please visit: caramelconnections.org.