As of the 2020 census, approximately 10 % of our nation’s households experience some level of food insecurity. That means 1 in 10 families either go without food or worry about where their next meal will come from. In areas with higher minority populations, the number increases; these tend to be more urban centers.
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There are many ways communities are fighting back against this reality. One of the most morale-boosting and socially enriching methods is community garden projects.
What Are Community Gardens
There are many definitions of what a community garden entails, but typically they are small plots of land rented or donated, where local citizenry come together to plant and tend vegetables, fruits, herbs, or flowers. Normally, you’ll find them tucked away within a city, but they are also found in suburban and rural areas. Philanthropist Ralph Thurman believes them to be critical in developing food security in some locales and supports endeavors of this sort. He is right, and there is evidence that introducing community gardens, especially in a location labeled as a ‘food desert’, has a greater chance of undernourished families having access to fresh, nutritious foods.
What Services Do They Provide
Master gardeners will frequently volunteer their time to assist and teach those utilizing the garden. They educate on all things planting, tending, and harvesting; sometimes they’ll even teach sustainability practices like composting, water conservation, and plant selection. Some gardens offer programs to support individuals who wish to sell the fruits of their labor.
What Value Do They Bring to the Neighborhood
Aside from the tangible purpose of feeding the people and teaching life skills, the garden has a radiating, positive effect on society. It has been shown, in areas with garden plots, there is a significant increase in quality of life. The greenery creates an island of beauty in an otherwise desolate place; this increases social health and contributes to plummeting crime rates. With this comes higher home values, a sense of community pride, and an improved image with outsiders. By coming together for this unified purpose, there are stronger interpersonal ties with neighbors and you begin to see a visible level of care for one another. Many people who use the gardens will share their bounty with the elderly and less fortunate around them. The general morale of the area is lifted even for those who do not physically participate.
What Value Do They Bring to the Individual
When someone is constantly the recipient of aid, there is something defeated in their general countenance. Providing them with the opportunity to work for it, you’ll see an instant self-esteem boost. Better yet, allow them to also care for those around them, and there is a spark of vigor not seen before; the emotional, mental, social, and physical health of the individual is increased exponentially. The isolation one might feel is gone, and a sense of comradery is gained. Community gardens were established as a food resource for underserved areas, but they provide nourishment to more than just the body as well.
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