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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Community Gardener Uwanda Tate Cultivates Health and Healing in Frayser

In the heart of the Frayser community, Uwanda Tate is making an impact through gardening.

As the Director of Health and Wellness at Impact Baptist Church, Tate has transformed part of five acres of land into a flourishing garden, providing fresh produce and promoting a healthy lifestyle for her congregation and the wider community.

Uwanda Tate is the Director of Health and Wellness at Impact Baptist Church in Frayser. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith/Tri-State Defender)

Tate’s journey into gardening was deeply personal, sparked by a series of health crises within her family. 

“Most of my family had COVID, chronic illness, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes,” she shared. Determined to find a way to stay healthy, Tate found inspiration one day while lying in the grass. “The vision said, you know what you want to do? Along with the health and wellness class, why don’t we incorporate healthier food?” 

From that moment, Tate and her team devised a strategy, planting seeds in April and nurturing them throughout the year. 

“It’s healing the soul, and anybody can help,” she said. The garden soon became a sanctuary for those seeking physical and mental well-being. “You just be in the moment. Sometimes we have to be in the moment to see what God has done.”

The garden, which is open to the public five days a week, offers two bags of fresh produce per family, absolutely free. 

“We make announcements on our Facebook page and the North Haven community page to let everyone know what’s available,” Tate explained. The initiative encourages community members to bring their own bags and participate in the harvest, fostering a sense of communal effort and support.

The impact of Tate’s work extends beyond the garden. Her congregation eagerly joined the Healthier901 initiative launched last fall by Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, 

Healthier901 is a three-year campaign aimed at encouraging the Mid-South community to collectively lose one million pounds. The initiative focuses on promoting healthier, more active lifestyles to reduce the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. 

“The Healthier 901 Initiative is a great way to balance your diet,” Tate noted. “They offer so many suggestions on how to lose weight and nutrition tips.” 

By leveraging partnerships with local organizations and providing resources like the Healthier 901 app, the initiative supports community members in tracking their weight loss, monitoring their activities, and accessing nutritional advice.

At Impact, Tate says the church participates in a “Biggest Loser” competition, where members weigh in every three months. “So far, our congregation has lost up to 600 pounds,” Tate proudly shared.

To further promote healthy eating, Tate teaches community members how to prepare vegetables with low-sodium seasoning and other healthy alternatives. “Cabbage on the grill is delicious and full of iron and vitamins,” she said. 

Tate’s efforts have not only provided nutritious food but have also played a critical role in health awareness. The church hosts a health fair every October, where vendors offer free blood pressure and diabetes testing. 

“There have been instances where people found out they had high blood pressure at our fair. We’ve even advised some to go to the hospital, which saved their lives,” Tate recounted. 

Mental health is also a priority. Through a partnership with Legacy, the garden helps individuals cope with problems, offering a tranquil environment that promotes mental clarity. 

“We all have dark issues in our lives, but I find gardening to be soothing and inspirational,” Tate said.

Looking ahead, Tate is excited about the upcoming “Fresh Out of the Garden” event on June 22nd. The event, set from 12 to 3 p.m., will feature cooling stations, vendors like Tri-State Mobile Van and Oak Street Health, and free health screenings. “We want everyone to exercise, move around, and eat nutritious food,” she emphasized.

Uwanda Tate’s dedication to gardening and health has not only transformed a piece of land but also the lives of those in her community. Her garden stands as a testament to the healing power of nature and the impact of community-driven health initiatives. “Everything God has put on this earth is edible,” she said, “We just have to know and not lose that knowledge.”

“The stuff that you need to keep you circulating, it gives you energy,” Tate said, taking a deep breath. “And what we see out here is energy. . . . It’s all around us. Listen to the birds, to nature. It’s here.”

She paused to take a deep breath and closed her eyes, a meditation in the moment.

“The stuff that you need to keep you circulating, it gives you energy,” she said. “And what we see out here is energy. . . . It’s all around us. Listen to the birds, to nature.

“It’s here.”

This story was reported by Lee Eric Smith and written with the help of artificial intelligence.

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