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Plant, Grow, Eat, Be Healthy Workshop Series Nurtures Community Wellness  

Jenny Schaben | March 6th, 2024

In partnership with Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE), Building Community Bridges (BCB), a nonprofit community organization, launched the Plant, Grow, Eat, Be Healthy workshop series from February 9 to March 1 in Jefferson City, Missouri. The initiative united students, faculty, alumni and the wider community in promoting physical and mental wellness through gardening and nutrition. With collaborative efforts, participants engaged in discussions and activities fostering a healthier lifestyle.

Supported by the Retool Your School Community Project Grant, the workshop series served as a bridge between students and the Jefferson City community through the power of healthy living.

lincoln-university-of-missouri-be-healthy-workshop-1.jpgEngaged students, staff, alumni and community members gather to learn about winter vegetables and kickstart their gardening journey by planting seeds. 

"The grant is awarded to partnerships between community-based organizations and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to promote community engagement," says Sarah Eber, LUCE's Human Health and Nutrition program coordinator and key organizer. "One of the main objectives is to encourage students to participate and become more actively involved with the community.” 

The Plant, Grow, Eat, Be Healthy series featured workshops on winter vegetables, roasting root vegetables and eating healthy on a budget. These workshops were taught by Eber at LUCE’s Commercial Kitchen, where participants received an up-close look at how to prepare nutritious food. They also learned about the many health benefits of winter and root vegetables, as well as gardening tips. Another workshop in the series was on plant propagation, held at Building Community Bridges in Jefferson City, Missouri. Hands-on activities included planting and maintenance, led by BCB’s botanist, Anthony Sparer, who is also a research technician at Lincoln University. Bean Counter Urban Farm also assisted by volunteering time, tools and expertise.


Sarah Eber explains how to read a nutrition label effectively during the "Eating Healthy on a Budget" session, equipping individuals with insightful guidance to make informed choices.

Plant, Grow, Eat, Be Healthy played a crucial role in addressing food insecurity and enhancing mental well-being within the community. Alicia Malone, a Lincoln University sophomore majoring in social work and minoring in business, is an intern sponsored by the program. During the workshop series, she emphasized the significance of the program's initiative for LU students and the neighboring communities facing limited resources. Additionally, Malone highlighted the therapeutic benefits of gardening, citing research that links it to reduced stress, improved mood, and increased mental health. She discussed how gardens can cultivate a stronger bond with nature and alleviate feelings of loneliness.

"Gardening and cultivating promote mental wellness, connecting people to nature and reducing stress," Malone says. "Gardening helps produce endorphins and contributes to health and well-being."


Anthony Sparer enriches young minds in the community by imparting knowledge about gardening at Building Community Bridges (BCB).

The Retool Your School Community Program Grant also focuses on establishing community gardens and orchards, including a fruit orchard on Mulberry Street and raised beds near Building Community Bridges. These spaces provide nutritious food and communal gathering areas where students, alumni, staff and residents can converge, interact and take pride in their shared environment. By fostering a culture of collaboration and sustainability, the Retool Your School Community Project Grant at Lincoln University and BCB is not only transforming physical spaces but also nurturing relationships and empowering individuals to lead healthier and more connected lives.

Students Cooperative Extension