More than 75% of the adults over 50 on this Pacific island suffer from diabetes, largely exacerbated by poor nutrition. Despite year-round paradise-like weather – seemingly ideal for growing fresh produce – Ebeye residents live almost entirely on processed, packaged foods.
Two obstacles to healthier eating stand in the way. With a population density of more than 185 people per acre, there's scarcely a spare patch of land for growing healthy produce. What's more, Ebeye's rocky and sandy soil – part of the Marshall Islands atoll -- make gardening virtually impossible.
Canvasback Missions, Inc., a non-profit serving remote Pacific Islands, along with their partner, the Kwajalein Diabetes Coalition, recently started an innovative Diabetes Intervention Program, which will help Ebeye residents "grow local." In February 2014, 172 EarthBox® garden boxes were shipped to Ebeye for use in community gardens. Canvasback chose EarthBox garden boxes because they are self-watering, high-yielding, weed-free, easy-to-use, and space-efficient.
Some of the EarthBox systems were distributed to the Ebeye hospital, where they will grow fresh produce for patients.
The balance of the garden boxes went to schools, where children will plant school gardens. In the process, they'll learn the benefit of healthy nutrition and self-sufficiency.
Canvasback's head dietician Brenda Davis, R.D. remarks, "I think the most important reason for people to begin to grow food here on Ebeye is because imported produce is not affordable. Garden boxes give people an economical way of consuming healthy foods. This is the only way to reverse the epidemic of diabetes."
The good news is that in the tropics, every day is seed day and every day is harvest day. Now that more residents have access to a garden box, fresh produce is becoming an affordable option for more and more families. The hope is that this will not only help diabetics control their disease but play an important role in reversing the epidemic of diabetes on the island of Ebeye.
The patented EarthBox was introduced in 1994 after a decade of research by commercial farmers looking for a maintenance-free way to grow in ideal conditions. Since then, the EarthBox has been used in home gardens, commercial farms, schools and restaurants around the world. More information is available at www.earthbox.com.
Frank DiPaolo, General Manager