US (FL): Event celebrates CUOC's hydroponic garden

As Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County looked to increase the ability for clients to find fresh vegetables, they took a unique approach, growing them hydroponically.

On Tuesday, October 25, community members, local officials, and other guests attended a ribbon-cutting and tour of the four Hydroponic Flex Farms from Fork Farms. The celebration included the many partners in the effort, United Healthcare, Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC, Pfizer, and CUOC. The center's "Gold" level in the Healthy Pantry initiative was also lauded.

According to statistics, in Lee County, 20.6% of children under 18 are food insecure, with 13.5% of residents lacking fresh and affordable foods. The Fork Farms hydroponic systems allow CUOC to grow fresh produce in-house year-round to distribute to families in need.

"We right now are seeing about 755 families a month," CUOC Executive Director Teresa Dew Kelly said. "That translates to about 2,600 individuals that we are actually feeding here at this facility every month. We can't do that partnership to provide all that food without the assistance of our community. We are thankful for all of the partnerships we have."

Before the grant funding for units came in, CUOC had already decided to purchase one. "We were excited, thinking that was something great that we could get our feet wet," Kelly said. "We started with one until we got the first grant. The first grant came from United Healthcare, which was through a partnership with the Food Bank. We also partnered on another grant with Pfizer here locally. Pfizer was able to fund two units for us, with a year's supply for each of those units.

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