“Seeds of Joy” community garden plants to help families

ONTARIO, California – In Ontario, part of Anthony Munoz Park has been converted into a community garden. It was a project driven by the vision and green thumb of Elizabeth McSwain.

Now, the Seeds of Joy Community Garden is a place low-income Ontario families can come and plant, care for and harvest their own produce at no cost. The garden currently accommodates 31 families. The aim of the project is to break down barriers to a healthy lifestyle.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve social equity, which means that now residents engage differently with their neighbors,” McSwain explained.

Jeanette Seneviratne was the first to receive a garden plot.

“It taught me different types of herbs and spices as well as teas, fruits and vegetables that [I] could bring home and use them to cook fresh fruit for the kids and my husband as well, ”she said.

McSwain saw first-hand how the health challenges of low-income families can be changed through better access to healthier food options.

“She just explained how impactful it was going to be that she doesn’t have to choose between taking her income to buy organic produce, she can actually foot a bill,” McSwain said.

She hopes that by the end of 2022, the garden will provide produce to hundreds of families.

“It takes a village, it couldn’t happen without the collaboration of all our partners,” said McSwain.

Al Boling spent years working for the city of Ontario, and upon retirement he helped McSwain realize this vision.

“Oh, it was remarkable to see the energy and enthusiasm that Liz brings to a project like this, to ensure its sustainability, not just in the factories,” said Boling, “but just by living all lives that can be impacted and changed by teaching healthy habits, fitness, yoga, Zumba, meditation and just eating habits. “

McSwain works hard to cultivate the concept of healthy living above the ground as well. Through her own Caramel Connections foundation, she has created a community calendar filled with 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. And so, as a family, we feel like when we make money in a community we’re supposed to give back, ”McSwain said.

For more information on Seeds of Joy and other wellness programs associated with the Community Garden, visit: caramelconnections.org.