• Ralph Thurman

How Community Gardens Help Fight Hunger in America


If you grow your own vegetables of have a fruit tree on your property, you’ll know how delicious and packed with nutrition home grown food can be. There’s nothing like the taste and smell of fresh locally grown produce. However, not everyone has access to high quality food in adequate amounts.

Hunger across America is a problem that never seems to go away. Community gardens are one tool that many communities are using in an effort to bring food security to more families. Following is what you should know about hunger in our country and how these gardens are helping:

Food Insecurity Statistics

Would you believe that over 38 million people in the United States don’t have enough food to eat? That’s between 11 and 12 percent of the population. What’s more, some 12 million of these individuals are children. That means that there’s food insecurity in every neighborhood in America.

As you might expect, individuals living in rural areas struggle more with hunger. There are often fewer resources like food banks and nutrition programs. Communities of color also experience higher malnutrition due, in large part, to structural systemic inequalities.

Finally, the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated the problem in every corner of the country. Lockdowns and closures caused job losses. Food supply chains were disrupted. Some people lost incomes while others who were just getting by have found it more of a challenge to pay the rent or mortgage and still put food on the table for their families. Now, more than ever, innovative approaches are needed to solve America’s food insecurity and a community garden can be part of the picture.

Community Garden Profile

So, what exactly are community gardens? Essentially, they are plots of land in a city or town that people from the neighborhood use collaboratively to grow food. A garden might consist of one or more building lots loaned to the enterprise by city officials, or it could be private land donated for the cause.

Members who tend the garden do so voluntarily, working out an agreeable division of labor and responsibilities. They come together to plan what crops will be planted, seed the land, plant seedlings and nurture the growth of plants with water and fertilizers. Participants harvest edible produce when it’s ready throughout the growing season.

Usually, the food is made available to anyone who needs it. Recipients might include the gardeners themselves, anyone else living in the area, neighboring schools, the local food bank or community kitchen, or another social organization that assists those living in poverty.

How Hunger Is Helped

There are a host of ways that a community garden can benefit hungry neighborhoods. To begin with, by their very nature, these initiatives create a sense of belonging. Friendships flourish. People recognize when others need help and offer it. Individuals on the receiving end are apt to feel less isolated and more comfortable reaching out when they’re having a hard time. The social support alone can improve mental health.

Community gardens often encourage children to be part of the project. Young ones are welcomed to join their parents or working in the garden is part of their school curriculum. Youngsters learn about how the food they eat is grown and are inspired when they see their efforts paying off. Raising a generation of gardeners helps ensure their future food security.

Many of these food-growing enterprises expand their mandate with food education. It’s not uncommon for volunteers to organize cooking lessons, guest speaker gardening experts, trips to the grocery store to learn about nutrition, and similar events. Not only are these events educational, but they can also light the spark for a genuine love of cooking and eating properly.

Of course, the most obvious benefit of community gardens is that they impact the immediate need local residents have for sufficient healthy food. Putting a dent in neighborhood hunger with fresh fruit and vegetables is what drives these enterprises.

Where to Find a Community Garden

These initiatives are in every corner of the country. They can be found in school yards, on the grounds of churches and community centers, and on side streets in neighborhoods. Some have been launched by food banks while others are affiliated with charitable organizations with a mission to assist low-income families.

Certain gardens serve just the clients that the founders work with. Others offer food freely to any families or individuals in the area, no questions asked. When it’s not growing season, folks involved are hard at work designing the garden, buying plants for the plot, and doing any groundswork necessary. Searching for media coverage is one way to locate your closest community garden.

Conclusion

Indeed, these novel endeavors make an important contribution in addressing hunger in America. If you’re intrigued by the idea, why not check one out? Perhaps you’ll be motivated to participate.

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