Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) has received a California State Parks grant of $685,000 to expose local youth and their families to outdoor experiences as part of California’s new outdoor equity efforts.
The three-year grant will enable the university and its partners to implement the Healthy in Nature Equity Program for surrounding residents of the Jardín de la Salud (Garden of Health) in San Bernardino, a community garden sponsored by LLUH and its Institute for Community Partnerships.
The effort is one of 125 local California programs to receive funding from the state Department of Parks and Recreation’s new “Outdoors for All” initiative to bring outdoor activities to people in under-resourced communities. Residents of low-income urban and rural areas will be able to participate and expand their access to outdoor experiences at state parks and other public lands.
Healthy in Nature will partner with the local school district to bring students to the garden and hold weekly workshops and educational projects led by LLU staff and faculty. The project will also include monthly family hikes in natural areas each week in places such as the Loma Linda hills, San Bernardino mountains, Palm Springs, and the coast. The program will also hold quarterly camping trips for teens and offer leadership, career exploration, and mentoring opportunities.
“This is really exciting for us because it leverages existing relationships we have in our community and adds an additional element of nature in how we can support families in our region,” said Juan Carlos Belliard, PhD, MPH, director of LLUH’s Institute for Community Partnerships. “This is an opportunity to share the proven mental and spiritual health benefits of nature with the broader community.”
The initiative will serve approximately 1,900 participants and conduct 82 trips to natural areas for approximately 1,500 participants during three years of programming.
The program will also include teaching sessions on careers and occupations in nature, animals in nature, wellness and sustainability classes, as well as San Bernardino environmental history, composting, aquaponics, and wellness.
By Ansel Oliver