Grow Healthy Raises Cancer Awareness

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) Comprehensive Cancer Control Program announces the “Grow Healthy” – Community Garden Project to support healthy lifestyles and cancer awareness. Research has shown that a nutritious diet and exercise can diminish the risk for colon and breast cancer. Floridians can also lower their risk of cancer and other chronic diseases by not smoking and getting appropriate screening to treat problems early.

Selected projects have received a supply of seeds (green beans, lettuce, basil, radish, tomato and carrots), information on community gardens and health education materials.

Winning entries include gardens in Miami, Dade City, Bronson, Chipley, Apalachicola, Spring Hill, Palm Coast, Bristol, Wauchula, Bunnell, Defuniak Springs, Live Oak, Brooksville, Ocala, St. Petersburg, Panama City, Tamarac, Jacksonville and Palatka. Due to the enthusiastic response, the DOH Comprehensive Cancer Control Program secured an additional supply of seeds for a second round of projects.


Participants include county health departments, university and K-12 students, faith-based organizations, neighborhood associations, farm workers, long-term hospital patients, at-risk youth, seniors and minorities. Entries featured ideas for sustainable gardening practices such as roof-top gardening, composting, water conservation through drip irrigation and rain barrels, and organic gardening.

Projects are intended to foster teamwork within the community, increase daily exercise and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and reduce family food expenses. Several of the gardens are intergenerational efforts, combining the skills of youth and seniors. Many of the projects will also involve educational sessions regarding nutrition, science and sun safety. Produce from the gardens will be donated to local charities and food pantries, sold in school fundraisers, and distributed to communities and family members.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and in Florida, accounting for approximately 40,000 deaths in Florida each year. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the declining trend in cancer mortality demonstrates considerable progress in cancer prevention and early detection. Important new studies by the American Institute for Cancer Research indicate that over 45% of colon cancer cases and 38% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. can be prevented by making changes in diet and physical activity and controlling weight. Overall, a third of the most common cancers can be prevented, and one third of cancer is known to be caused by tobacco.

Approximately 100,000 new cancer cases are reported annually to the Florida Cancer Data System. The registry also reports that minority populations in Florida have higher rates of many cancers. For example, age-adjusted mortality rates for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are significantly higher in blacks. Minorities are often disproportionately affected by cancer due to unequal access to quality care and a higher rate of behaviors that increase risk.