The Role of Community Gardens in Promoting Healthy Eating

Community gardens are an innovative form of urban agriculture where neighbors come together to grow vegetables, fruit or flowers in shared plots located in public spaces such as schools, parks or churches.

Recent research suggests that community gardening may help improve physical and mental health outcomes. This article reviews this evidence.

1. Increasing Access to Fresh Produce

Community gardens are an innovative form of urban agriculture in which members come together to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs for themselves and the wider community. Community gardens represent an invaluable opportunity to promote healthier eating practices while contributing to food system sustainability.

Communities that lack access to nutritious foods may benefit from an increase in fresh produce at neighborhood community gardens, which also serve as educational spaces where residents can learn sustainable farming techniques.

Multiple studies have demonstrated the positive health outcomes associated with community gardening participation, including improved diet and physical activity levels. One such study found that community gardeners were three and a half times more likely than non-gardeners to consume the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners.

Community gardening has also proven beneficial for its participants’ social aspects; one study noted how participating was associated with reduced feelings of depression and higher social cohesion levels.

2. Increasing Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

After the pandemic, community gardens have become more widely popular as a solution to increase food sovereignty and relieve strain on emergency food assistance organizations. They can promote healthier eating while simultaneously providing additional social and environmental benefits beyond simply food production.

Gardeners who participate in community gardens tend to consume higher rates of fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners, likely due to accessing fresh food produced locally that’s less expensive than what can be purchased from grocery stores.

Gardeners gain invaluable skills through gardening, such as cultivating and preserving their own produce. This can be especially valuable in communities without access to fresh groceries or who have high costs associated with fresh groceries. Furthermore, gardening serves as an integral social activity, often drawing people together and fostering positive interactions – something particularly helpful for isolated neighborhoods where gardening brings residents out from behind closed doors into direct contact with one another.

3. Increasing Access to Fresh Vegetables

Community gardens are an urban agriculture practice managed by multiple people working together in a shared space to grow produce for consumption, as opposed to individual and family residential gardening or city farms which specialize in animal products production.

Community gardens help increase access to fresh vegetables by lowering food costs and providing physical activity opportunities, while providing education on nutrition and gardening. According to studies, those who participate in community gardening tend to consume more fruits and vegetables than those who do not participate.

Community gardens are an effective tool to promote healthier diets, acting as an invaluable complement to emergency food assistance programs and creating an atmosphere of resilience within neighborhoods. Community gardens should be available to all members of a community including those most at-risk; however there may be barriers that must be addressed in order to effectively implement and evaluate community garden programs.

4. Increasing Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Community gardens offer an accessible and sustainable solution for combatting food insecurity in communities. Gardens can improve local access to fresh fruits and vegetables, promote nutrition education and physical activity programs, as well as act as an anchor point for other forms of intervention in local neighborhoods.

This research employs a mixed methods approach to evaluate the health benefits of gardening for people from underserved communities. Qualitative methods will be utilized, including ethnographic interviews, participatory observations, hermeneutic phenomenological analysis and discourse analysis.

SDSU Extension implemented garden-based interventions in rural South Dakota counties with high adult obesity levels and large numbers of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants to increase local access and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Interventions included nutrition education, gardening instruction, youth engagement in gardens and various outcomes being measured such as BMI, hand strength, self-reported physical and mental health measures as well as diet habits.

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