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As a way to promote healthier lifestyles, the City of Winchester is applying for a state grant to build a greenhouse and grow plants to allow residents to start their own gardening projects.

The City Council recently unanimously approved an application for a $78,900 Healthy Built Environment grant from the Tennessee Department of Health to build a greenhouse, potentially on a city-owned lot at 100 Oaks Street, near the Winchester Hat Corporation.

If approved, the state would be funding the grant at 100 percent.

“Winchester’s city leaders are in a unique position to promote healthy eating and active living in our community by supporting the greenhouse project, Plant it Forward,” the city government said in a press release. “COVID-19 brought a new awareness to our community about the importance of our local food sources.

“The city owns a vacant lot and is donating the land to the greenhouse project. Winchester can mitigate disparity and recapture the unused land for the purpose of transforming it into a greenhouse where people of all ages can seek vegetable plants and strengthen community ties by increasing access and affordability of fresh vegetables.”

According to an assessment of community health needs for Franklin County completed in 2018, more healthy-eating and active-living options ranked fifth overall.

The City of Winchester followed through by proposing “Plant It Forward,” an innovative approach to food insecurity in Winchester and Franklin County.

Plant It Forward proposes to construct the greenhouse to grow vegetable plants that will be distributed for free to the target audience.

City Administrator Beth Rhoton said the plants would probably be distributed based on need.

The press release says that food insecurity is not just about lack of food, it is also a lack of fresh, non-processed items.

The city plans to have volunteers grow vegetable plants in the greenhouse that will be given to residents to enable them to start their own edible gardens at home.

“Families can increase their purchasing power by growing vegetables,” the press release says.

The Plant It Forward project will partner with the local government, public-health entities, local organizations, educators, and local businesses to ensure success.

Plant It Forward will promote equity by working to reduce race and gender barriers, accommodate learning styles and disabilities, be dynamic with greenhouse space, be mindful of different vegetable plants desired by different ethnic groups and work to establish an inclusive environment early in the planning process, the press release says.

Instead of growing huge gardens like previous generations have done, the city will encourage participants to start small so they will be able to manage what they are trying to accomplish.

Edible gardens will be encouraged in places where residents normally plant flower gardens around their homes.

For those living in apartments, families and their children can grow vegetables in clay or plastic pots, trashcans, buckets or other containers and place them on porches, balconies, windowsills or sunny places.

Sustainability will always be in season, the press release says, adding that a seed bank will be developed to keep costs at a minimum.

A seed bank is like a savings account, the press release says, adding that seeds are returned to the greenhouse from participants and are “deposited” into secure storage with the intent to withdraw them for the next growth cycle.

“Developing partnerships is essential to the holistic approach that defines, Plant It Forward,” the press release says. “Our project will cross traditional organizational boundaries, which will result in the need for input and assistance from several groups and individuals in the community.”

Partnership development was viewed as an ongoing activity beginning at the program-design stage and continuing through implementation and evaluation.

Engaging the community most affected by the Plant It Forward project will be important for program effectiveness and long-term success, the press release says.