Mercy 360 Community kicks off with Maryvale school garden

Pueblo del Sol Elementary School students, teachers and volunteers transformed the schoolyard on March 24 with a new community garden.

It all started when the kids in Sarah Isaac’s 3rd grade class had an assignment. They were asked, “What can you do to make your community better?” Their answer: a community garden. They had the idea, but didn’t have the funds. So when we heard about the need, we sprang into action.

As part of the Mercy 360 Community effort, we’re teaming up with Valley of the Sun United Way and other local partners to fund community gardens in the Maryvale area. Pueblo del Sol is the first one and two more will soon follow.

Mercy 360 Community is part of our community reinvestment plan. We’re investing in “social determinants” of health—like how we work, live and play—to improve quality of life for people in our community. The main focus of the program is on the Maryvale area and has three main goals:

  • Improve access to care
  • Enhance food security
  • Expand housing options

At Pueblo del Sol, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix Police officers, state Rep. Tony Navarrete and dozens of students and volunteers joined the effort. By noon, the garden beds were built. The fruits and vegetables were planted. And the tired students began looking forward to sharing their first harvest.

“We’re going to start gardening classes for our parents, so we can sustain it and have fruits and vegetables for our families year-round,” Isaac said. Pueblo del Sol Principal Armando Chavez added, “We would like the garden be a place where the community will come. They can take vegetables from the garden and take them into the community.”

Community gardens reduce food insecurity and increase financial stability. They improve access to healthy food. Gardens also have been shown to increase physical activity and create safer neighborhoods.

At Pueblo del Sol, the garden has also become a valuable teaching tool, from biology to math to social studies. “It’s about the students’ learning,” Chavez said. “That was the concept from the beginning.”

What started as a classroom lesson has turned into a community alliance.

“Today we came together to reach a common goal,” said Monica Snyder, head of clinical operations at Mercy Maricopa. “The partnership between Mercy Care Plan, Mercy Maricopa, along with Valley of the Sun United Way and Pueblo del Sol, is an example of combining public and private resources to make sure our communities are stronger, healthier and addressing issues at the most basic level.