The BerryCare program is a collaboration between the UK SRC's CEC and the Cooperative Extension to create sustainable, affordable, and accessible sources of blackberries while also increasing physical activity through gardening. The program provides community groups with blackberry bushes and a lesson series that educates community members on blackberry bush maintenance, the negative impacts of environmental pollutants, the potential protective role of phytonutrients, and healthy blackberry recipes. The program raises awareness about the benefits of phytonutrients to our health using blackberries as an example of a phytochemical-rich food.
In 2017, the 6-lesson BerryCare curriculum was delivered at a senior center, (n=20 seniors) which coincided with the planting of 40 blackberry bushes. The BerryCare program is implemented through partnerships among the senior center, Horticulture Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent, the County Detention Center, and the CEC. The community oversees curriculum delivery and the care, maintenance and harvesting of blackberries. Approximately 13 pounds of blackberries were harvested during the 2018 season. Results of a plate waste study demonstrated that BerryCare is an effective program to increase blackberry consumption as 98% of the 150g blackberry portions (~1/2c serving) were consumed by the older adults (p < 0.001, n = 10). Interview and focus group data revealed positive feedback from community program administrators and participants regarding the BerryCare program.
What the administrators say about BerryCare...
- “The seniors got excited. You don’t see blackberries anymore, you know. They got to reminisce about how when they were kids and they would go out to pick the berries. Everybody had a story to tell about the blackberries. So, I think that it was a good thing for them.”
- “I think that the seniors definitely know a little bit more about the health benefits of the blackberries. They learned about why they should be eating more blackberries and how that can help them be healthier.”
- “This project has a lot of potential. Now that the berries are yielding, we can incorporate them more fully into programs.”
What the participants say about BerryCare...
- “I take something every time they bring things in from the garden… I eat blackberries every chance I get. They cost too much to buy. They cost way too much. The blackberries I get come from here [senior center].”
- “They put on some good programs around here [senior center]. I learn a lot about health”
- “I only eat blackberries, strawberries, those sorts of things only when they are on sale… I can get blackberries here when they aren’t on sale…. Keep doing what you all do. I think it’s a good idea, very informative to the older people. I mean, I have learned a lot of stuff here.”