6 Proven Ways a Community Garden Can Build a Healthier Community
Starting a community garden can help you create a more inclusive and healthier lifestyle for your entire community.
What is community gardening? It’s a collaborative effort between a group of gardeners to cultivate, grow and harvest nutritious fruits and vegetables. Most of these gardening initiatives allow each participant, or gardener, to work an assigned plot of land to grow whatever foods they wish.
Some efforts also coordinate with local agricultural extension offices to teach about healthy eating, food preservation, and safe food handling. The outcomes can be spectacular, when well-managed.
Six Not So Surprising Ways That Community Gardening Efforts Build Healthy Communities
Read on to learn how such a program can benefit all people in your city. Even people who live in apartments or have very small access to gardening space can take part.
According to a newly published resource on how to start a community garden, here are six of the myriad benefits.
1 – Community Gardens Can Create Cultural Inclusivity And Pride
“Health” is more than a robust, vital body. It’s also a mindset that wants all people to thrive.
Gardeners who choose to participate in such an effort can grow anything they want. So in one collective space, you carve out a place where people can display their cultural pride in how and what they decide to grow.
For example, an Indigenous person might grow heirloom squash seeds from a Native seedbank to enjoy a decolonized diet. On the other hand, a Hispanic person might choose to grow a favorite native pepper or yucca. Or a person of Mediterranean descent might prefer growing herbs to recreate their favorite cultural dishes.
The variety foods should represent what the town itself looks like—and that is a beautiful thing! Sharing our culinary traditions can be a unifying exercise.
2 – Gardeners Who Participate Get More Exercise
We lead more sedentary lives today than at any time in human history. Apps, automation, and AI now help us perform many daily tasks. But that comes at a hefty price—we are sitting far too long, failing to use our muscles and keep them health.
Gardening is a gentle to moderate activity that gets people outdoors and the work helps get the muscles stretched out and the blood pumping again.
3 – Community Gardening Bolsters Food Security
Many people live in areas devoid of access to grocery stores. This fact sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a non-profit effort dedicated to ending child poverty published a report in 2021 reveals that 39.5 million Americans, or almost 13% of the population, live one of these “food desserts.”
Areas impacted are inner-city urban neighborhoods and the most rural communities. Access to food shopping is greatest in affluent, white communities and worst in Black or impoverished communities—most of America falls somewhere in between. However, the fact that we live with so many people unable to access a grocery store is unacceptable.
A community garden is just one remedy that could help resolve food insecurity.
4 – Enjoying Positive Social Connections
Many people are lonely, especially after lockdowns and the coronavirus pandemic. The lack of in-person human connection takes a steep mental health toll.
BMC Psychiatry, a well-respected psychiatric journal notes in an article published on January 10, 2022, that the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns led to a decrease in global mental health, especially during the strictest lockdown phases. Furthermore, people who had pre-existing mental illnesses experienced the most trauma.
Now that we have vaccines and therapeutic treatments for the coronavirus, we can start getting together again—especially outdoors where the CDC assures us that the virus becomes less transmissible.
Getting out into a community garden is an excellent way to be around others while staying outdoors and practicing social distancing. The mental health rewards of this are yet unproven but interacting with others will surely boost your mood.
5 – Adding Fruits And Vegetables To Your Diet
It turns your mom was right—you should eat more of your favorite veggies and fruits. However, some people struggle with paying the expensive price that grocers charge for fresh foods. Indeed, many people who love eating veggies express dismay at the sticker shock.
Much of that cost incurred by grocers comes from the transportation cost, which they pass onto the consumer. The answer—purchase locally-sourced produce. Or better yet, grow your own.
So, what better way to curb rising food prices than to grow your own fruits and veggies and participate in a community garden effort? You will literally reap the rewards and might begin to enjoy better health as a result of your hard work.
6 – A Community Garden Might Help Improve Air Quality
The same urban centers that we call “food desserts” are also locations with higher incidences of asthma and other breathing problems. Of course, these lung conditions can stem from air pollution, especially near manufacturing facilities.
The Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology says, “The prevalence of asthma in the United States has increased over recent decades. Inner city populations have suffered a disproportionately high rate of increasing asthma prevalence compared to other locales. Children living in the inner-cities also have greater asthma severity, based on higher amounts of medication to achieve asthma control, poor response to medication and greater health care use.”
Not only does implementing a community garden help cities to beautify vacant lots, but growing these beautiful plants helps to purify the air. While they are not a fix-all to end pollution, every little bit helps. If enough people act to help clean up the environment, many believe we might begin to see a restoration of lung health.
Will You Start a Community Garden?
Now that you know the facts, here’s the question. Will you start a community garden? You might be the hero your city or town needs.