April 2014: LifeLong Medical Care and OBUGS

LifeLong Medical Care is a non-profit organization with nine community health centers that provide health care and social services to underserved people of all ages living in Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, and Novato. Oakland Based Urban Gardens, a program of LifeLong, uses schoolyard edible gardens as an outdoor classroom to teach children about growing and cooking their own food, and eating healthy. The OBUGS program offers an opportunity for children and youth ages 5-14 to have a break from their indoor studies. Children living in urban neighborhoods, surrounded by cement, buildings, and roads, otherwise may not have any opportunity to experience nature and its valuable lessons. To learn about the program, I spoke with Keturah Kornbluth, OBUGS’ Program Coordinator, and she provided insight as to how transformative OBUGS can be for kids.

Keturah shared a story with me about a boy who ate hotdogs, played video games, and did not eat vegetables. When his grandmother dropped him off for the OBUGS summer program, she warned that he would be a bit squeamish. That day, the children made their own fresh salsa using ingredients from the garden. Once the young boy saw the other kids eating the garden-grown food, he too decided to eat the fresh salsa. He smiled, loved the salsa and wanted the recipe. Over the summer, he grew to like vegetables, cooking, and wanted to be sure that his family was eating healthy. His grandmother was amazed by the young boy’s new interests.

His transformation shows that if given the opportunity to connect with their food, kids will enjoy nutritious foods and gain the knowledge necessary to help their families eat healthier. When OBUGS’ kids share their experiences with their families, friends, and neighbors the impact extends beyond the schoolyard and into the entire community.

More about OBUGS:

OBUGSOBUGS was founded in 1998 when two women, Margaret and Dorothy, bought land in West Oakland to start a community garden. The garden drew the attention of neighborhood kids, which gave the women the idea to start a school gardening program and partner with existing afterschool programs. OBUGS became a program of LifeLong in 2012 to supplement the existing LifeLong school-based clinic approach by reinforcing preventative health care through nutrition. When OBUGS is at full capacity, Keturah works with two gardening instructors and one garden manager at 4 sites, Lafayette Elementary School, St. Martin de Porres Elementary School, St. Patrick Middle School, and West Oakland Middle School, reaching approximately 400 kids.  The OBUGS volunteer program, Urban Adamah fellowship volunteers, and the LifeLong AmeriCorps program provide much needed support. Eventually, OBUGS is looking to donate produce grown in their gardens to the LifeLong health centers. The children will then have the opportunity to help people in their community that are most in need by increasing access to fresh and local produce.

More about LifeLong:
Currently, LifeLong donates food at their health care centers by partnering with farmers’ markets, organic farmers, and local bakers. The organization works with senior centers to formulate healthy diet plans for the elderly and partners with the Ecology Center’s healthy food prescription program to provide incentive for people to buy produce at farmers’ markets. LifeLong sees healthy food as an important preventative health care strategy.

LifeLong works to eliminate health disparities and provide health care to those in our communities that otherwise would not have access to the health care that they need. The centers provide primary health care, dental care, pediatric, adult and geriatric care, as well as chronic disease and HIV/AIDs treatment. Recognizing they still do not have the ability to serve everyone, LifeLong collaborates with community organizations and local health departments to advocate for system and policy change on county, state, and federal policy levels. LifeLong’s OBUGS program is just one example of how their impact extends beyond basic medical care. Their integrative approach serves as an equitable model for communities everywhere.

OBUGS is currently looking for volunteers for the 2014-2015 school year, beginning in September. Volunteers will help Keturah with the school programs or help the garden manager in the gardens. To become an OBUGS volunteer, contact Keturah at kkornbluth@lifelongmedical.org

For more information about LifeLong Medical Care, please visit lifelongmedical.org.


CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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