Community gardens can mitigate some of the problems that plague urban areas. They can be a beneficial addition to many communities by increasing the availability of nutritious foods, strengthening community ties, reducing environmental hazards, reducing food miles and creating a more sustainable system.
Community gardens can help reduce negative environmental impacts by promoting sustainable agriculture; reducing food transportation costs and reducing water runoff. Humans, plants and animals can all benefit from urban agriculture since it creates habitats and improves the ecology of the area.
• Increase access to fresh foods
• Improve food security
• Increase physical activity through garden maintenance activities
• Improve dietary habits through education
• Increase fruit and vegetable intake
• Reduce risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases
• Improve mental health and promote relaxation
Social ties are important to the wellbeing of people in a community since they can bring positive health effects and community involvement. Community gardens allow for the creation of social ties and build a greater feeling of community. These connections help reduce crime, empower residents and allow residents to feel safe in their neighborhoods.
• Gardens in urban areas are positively correlated with decreased crime rates
• Vacant lands can lead to crime which can detrimentally impact the health of residents
• Residents in areas with high crime rates may experience cardiovascular disease and mental health disorders
• The consequences of vacant lands are decreased property values, drug use, and the illegal dumping of litter, tires and chemicals
• Gardens can improve economic opportunities by training volunteers and selling food at farmers’ markets
• Urban agriculture can teach residents useful skills in planning, food production and business
• Improving vacant lots increased property values in New Kinsington, Philadelphia by 30% 3
• Gardens have been an important aspect of many cultures in history. In the past, community gardens were commonly used to provide food for families year-round. During WWII, victory gardens were an important source of food for American families. Recently, there has been a resurgence of community gardens to help mitigate the impacts of food deserts and as a use for the increased number of vacant lands present in urban areas. Community gardens can provide fresh, healthy produce for residents and allow them to reduce their food bills.
The benefits of community-based gardening projects likely extend beyond food security, as gardens provide fresh vegetables, and the process of gardening involves physical exercise. Family and social relationships can also be strengthened through community gardening, since community members provide advice and support to help overcome challenges and all receive the benefits the gardening project offers. Immigration issues can lead to the loss of these essential social networks , and may leave migrant families feeling isolated. This is especially true for Hispanic cultures where, traditionally, a strong sense of family and community known as “familismo” has shaped their perception of their world. For Hispanic families this is especially important since they carry the tradition of a family garden with them from Mexico . Approaches to studying family gardening are complicated. This is due in part to the distance from the academic centers and communities can be significant.