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On the Side of the Angelz



Jason and Jodi Tatum aren’t your typical obesity experts. They haven’t spent years studying the food industry or looking at reshaping city infrastructure to encourage physical activity.
The husband and wife simply saw the effects of the epidemic and wanted to do something to fix it, and they looked to their own backyard.

Or to be more accurate, to their own gardening containers.

In June, the Tatums launched the “Gardening Angelz,” a nonprofit that aims to use community gardens to reduce obesity and combat hunger. The couple began by growing a batch of crops in containers in their apartment complex, as well as some crops in the backyard of the home of Jodi’s parents.

Although they’ve just begun their efforts, eventually the Tatums want to teach other families how to grow their own gardens. They plan to donate much of their crop yield to local food banks to provide healthy produce for hungry families, thereby taking on two problems at once.

“We are going to go to Feeding America and various food banks, churches, schools, wherever we could find could use our produce,” Jason Tatum says.

The pair was inspired to start gardening after seeing a documentary about First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” childhood obesity campaign. Roughly 90 percent of their family members are obese, they say, and the couple decided they couldn’t sit on the sidelines while the epidemic raged on.

“We were really intrigued by the whole concept, and we just really started getting into some research, and how we can fit into the big scheme of things,” Jodi Tatum says of Let’s Move. “It’s a lot easier than I thought, because there are a lot of resources out there… It’s been rather smooth of a transition to find the information and get started.”

Although the pair admits they weren’t born with green thumbs — they enrolled in a gardening class to learn the basics — thus far they’ve managed to grow a range of crops, including tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, sugar snap peas, oregano, cilantro and grapes. 

They aren’t the only ones digging in the dirt in their apartment complex, either. Inspired by the Tatums’ efforts, a neighbor also is growing crops in containers.

The Tatums have big dreams for the Gardening Angelz. They hope to eventually raise enough money to provide homes for families in need, and teach those families how to garden and grow their own food. The pair also plan to offer community gardening classes, hold can food drives to help hungry families and even launch support groups for those people who are trying to lose weight.

“Just the fact that we can help people is our main focus,” Jason Tatum says.