Dental alumna creates garden to fight food insecurity

In a garden on a ribbon of old family farmland in the mountains of Ashe County, dreams are harvested alongside vegetables.

Dr. Amanda Stroud and her son, Anderson, spread hay in the Ashe County garden where Stroud grows vegetables for dental patients with food insecurity.

The garden is a vision nurtured by Dr. Amanda Stroud ’15, dental director for AppHealthCare in northwestern North Carolina. Even during her dental school days, Stroud imagined a dental office that would provide oral health care and more for its community.

With the help of partnerships, resources, energy and patience, she created the AppHealthCare Community Dental Garden, which last year yielded 360 pounds of produce and gave 70 families access to healthy food.

“None of us works alone; we work as a community to help our neighbors,” Stroud said. “We’re proud of what the garden has helped us do for our neighbors this year. I’m looking forward to watching the fruits of our labor multiply for the good of our community in the coming years.”

Stroud’s goal this year is 600 pounds of food and 100 families.

The quarter-acre plot sits on land at Gentry Farm 1821 in Nathans Creek, an Ashe County farm owned and run by Amanda Gentry and her partner, Wendy Painter. Gentry is a fifth-generation steward of the family land and is president of the Ashe County Farmers Market. When Stroud contacted Gentry after the project outgrew Stroud’s first garden outside her dental office, the answer was simple.

“Our mutual goals fit perfectly,” Gentry said. “Dr. Stroud knew about Gentry Farm and our commitment to raising quality healthy food and our interest in getting as much healthy food out into the community as possible.”

Stroud had seen patients who were experiencing hunger and food insecurity and wanted to do something about it. She and her team of volunteers and family members planted zucchini, yellow squash, beans, potatoes and other vegetables with sturdy shelf lives.

“We significantly downsized our plan due to COVID,” Stroud said. “We almost postponed the garden altogether (until 2021), but thanks to Amanda Gentry and her flexibility at Gentry Farm, we were able to move forward on a smaller scale.”

According to studies by Feeding America, one in seven North Carolinians struggles with hunger; one in five children experiences food insecurity. According to the North Carolina Justice Center, the state has the 10th highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, with nearly 590,000 households without enough to eat.