The Garden of Eden is a community-run grocery like facility established to serve the African American community in St. Louis. The project was initiated because local advocates and researchers identified obesity as a major health concern. Further, Abraham's Children (AC), a project of Interfaith Partnership of Metro St. Louis working with more than 45 churches, recognized a lack of healthy foods, particularly in the city. At the suggestion of one health advocate from an AC church, a diverse alliance established the Garden of Eden.
Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the effort has been a partnership between Abraham's Children, St. Louis University School of Public Health, and Health Works, a local business in St. Louis. The three entities entered into a joint decision making process, which requires approval by all the partners before moving forward. It also capitalizes on the strengths of each entity. For example, all partners developed a plan and applied for grants to support the project. A church donated the space in its basement to house the market. Local businesses have guided the design and layout of the market. A local supermarket chain, SaveALot, trained community members. Abraham's Children, which has lay health workers in each of its member churches, provides health counseling and information to members of participating congregations. Further, community members have contributed their understanding of community needs and strengths to the staffing and management of running the store. For example, they recommended that seniors in the community could be trained as nutrition educators. State and local minority health agencies have also lent their expertise to the effort.
The Garden of Eden opened its doors in July 2003 and continues to run today. Even before opening, the effort had already achieved four major outcomes. These were: 1) increasing knowledge and skills regarding fruits and vegetables and physical activity; 2) job training for community residents; 3) empowering residents as demonstrated by reports from members of the participating groups that they feel motivated and organized to address other health concerns in their community after having successfully implemented this project. This was initiated by developing a community dialogue about the relationship between community resources (e.g. a market) and behavior (e.g. healthy eating); and 4) establishing a community-run grocery like facility, which holds the promise of improving fruit and vegetable intake among African Americans in St. Louis. Over time, this facility can result in improved health outcomes, including reduced risk of chronic disease.
This profile was written with funding from the California Endowment.