Cherry Hill is a small, close-knit community in south Baltimore. It is approximately one square mile in size and is geographically isolated from most of Baltimore City. In the year 2000, the neighborhood was home to approximately 7,772 people of whom nearly 97% were African American. The median income was just under $17,500 per year, which was significantly lower than the median income of Baltimore City at large.
Cherry Hill is a neighborhood with many assets which include 14 churches, a hospital and health center, 6 schools, and active community groups, but it is an urban food desert. With only corner stores and fast food franchises to choose from, Cherry Hill residents lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.
In the past year, community residents, stakeholders, and organizations have come together to develop and expand initiatives to improve the health and well-being of the neighborhood. In September 2010, the Housing Authority of Baltimore arranged a lease agreement allowing residents to build the Eat Healthy Live Healthy Urban Garden on 0.5 acres of vacant land. In spring of 2011, the Family Health Centers of Baltimore – Cherry Hill started a garden area on their property for employees. Dietitians from Harbor Hospital and the Family Health Centers of Baltimore currently teach classes on healthy food preparation. Last academic year, Nadine Braunstein, the Cherry Hill People’s Garden Project Director, engaged local school children in an after-school program to prepare nutritious vegetable recipes. The Neighborhood Food Advocates (NFA) program, sponsored by the Baltimore City Department of Health, was recently started in Cherry Hill with goal to build a community of neighborhood residents who are concerned about the food environment and are willing to help create community-driven initiatives to increase food access and reduce obesity.
The Cherry Hill People’s Garden Project will build upon and expand the initiatives that are already under way in Cherry Hill. The micro-subgrants will enable neighborhood residents and stakeholders to create new gardens that will produce fresh, healthy food and develop and continue educational programs that will strengthen the community.