UCCE Promotes Container Gardening to Encourage Vegetable Intake and Improve Health for Affordable Housing Residents

Feb 2, 2023

A social media campaign aims to improve health of residents at low-income housing sites by encouraging vegetable intake through container gardening

The Issue 

In the U.S., vegetable intake is lowest among adults with low income. Eating the recommended daily amount of vegetables is important for overall health. Gardening has a role in promoting vegetable consumption. CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California Cooperative Extension (CFHL, UCCE) Butte Cluster and UC Master Gardeners, kicked off their second annual “Great Tomato Challenge” in 2022, a social media contest for Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP).CHIP is a non-profit corporation that serves Butte, Glenn, Yuba and Colusa Counties by assisting low-income residents with quality, affordable housing. The goal of the “Great Tomato Challenge” event is to promote container gardening at apartment complexes through a workshop and social media contest.

How UC Delivers

The 1.5 hour Fresh from the Garden curriculum workshops took place at 5 CHIP sites, having been advertised in English, Spanish, and Hmong language flyers. Over 40 adults learned how to harvest, store, and prepare fresh tomatoes. Those who opted to sign up for the social media challenge received a tomato plant and agreed to submit photos, drawings, and recipes accessed on the CFHL, UCCE Butte Cluster Facebook page.

UC Master Gardeners partnered with CFHL, UCCE Butte Cluster to provide Facebook Live sessions to answer any questions participants had about growing their tomato plant. CFHL, UCCE Butte Cluster Educators translated questions and answers into Spanish and Hmong. 

Three winners were selected from the 36 contestants from the following categories: best photo of you and your tomato plant; best tomato drawing; and best recipe photo. Winners received a colander, whole wheat spaghetti noodles, and a jar of locally-sourced pasta sauce.

The Impact 

Eighteen participants completed an "Intent to Change" Survey for the workshop. Thirty-eight percent reported that they would: “eat more than 1 kind of vegetable each day more often within the next week.” One participant wrote “This workshop helps my family to be healthier.” Gardening has a role in promoting greater vegetable intake and variety among families with low income which improves overall health.

CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Butte Cluster will continue this challenge annually and is considering starting an additional annual challenge, using the same model, for a cool-season vegetable such as beets.

A child's drawing of a tomato fruit
A child's drawing of a tomato fruit

By Veronica VanCleave-Hunt
Author - Community Nutrition, Health and Food Security Advisor
By Andra Nicoli
Author - UC CalFresh State Office
By Karina Hathorn
Contributor - Program Coordinator UC Master Gardeners of Butte County & CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Community Education Specialist