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Cultivating Community Gardens: The Role of Local Government in Creating Healthy, Livable Neighborhoods

Cultivating Community Gardens: The Role of Local Government in Creating Healthy, Livable Neighborhoods

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Cultivating Community Gardens: The Role of Local Government in Creating Healthy, Livable Neighborhoods
Cultivating Community Gardens: The Role of Local Government in Creating Healthy, Livable Neighborhoods

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Published by: Gustoff on Oct 29, 2011
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09/27/2014

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CultivatingCommunity Gardens
The Role of Local Government inCreating Healthy,Livable Neighborhoods
L
ocal government leaders are in a unique position to promote healthy eating and active living in theircommunities by supporting community gardens.Community gardens are places where neighborscan gather to cultivate plants,vegetables and fruits.Such gardens can improve nutrition,physicalactivity,community engagement,safety and economic vitality for a neighborhood and its residents.Barriers,such as liability expenses,code restrictionsand a lack of resources,which often make it difficultfor communities to establish or maintain gardensin their neighborhoods,can be overcome withlocal government engagement. This brochure offers case studies,best managementpractices,resources and tools for policymakersto develop creative,cost-effective solutions thatreduce barriersand facilitate the creation of com-munity garden programs.To read more aboutthese case studies and the resources footnotedin this factsheet,visit:
www.lgc.org/healthycommunities
Unhealthy communitiesbear greater costs
Sixty-five percent of adults in the U.S.are over-weight or obese [1],and more than 33% of childrenand adolescents are obese or at risk for becomingobese [2].For adults,the potential health conse-quences of obesity include cardiovascular disease,hypertension,type 2 diabetes,osteoporosis andsome cancers.Obese children are at a greaterrisk than normal-weight children for developingtype 2 diabetes,hypertension,high cholesterol,sleep apnea and orthopedic problems.In addition to the potential health consequences,obesity creates a substantial economic burdenfor the U.S.The direct and indirect health costsassociated with obesity are estimated at $117billion per year,nationwide,in the form of workerabsenteeism,health care premiums,co-paymentsand out-of-pocket expenses [3].
 
Gardens benefit communities
Community garden programs with the followingcharacteristics have the greatest potential tostrengthen communities [4]:
Provide an open space for communitygatherings and family events.
Include neighbors of various ages,racesand ethnic backgrounds.
Offer educational opportunities andvocational skills for youths.
 Target or include lower-income residents.
Enable gardeners to sell their producethrough a local farmer’s market.
Build in a method to encourage the donationof surplus produce to food shelters.
 
Creating more open space
Most urban areas in America do not meet local or state requirementsfor open space and parks per capita,particularly minority communitiesthat have fewer resources to obtain and retain open space.For instance,in Los Angeles,neighborhoods with 75% or more white residents boast31.8 acres of park space for every 1,000 people,compared with 1.7 acres inAfrican-American neighborhoods and 0.6 acres in Latino neighborhoods [7].Community gardens are an inexpensive way for cities to mitigate thisdisparity and recapture unused land for the purpose of beautification.A neglected vacant lot can be transformed into a garden where peopleof all ages can grow food together and strengthen community ties.
Educational opportunities
Hands-on exposure to community gardenscan teach children about the sourcesof fresh produce,demonstratecommunity stewardship andintroduce the importance of environmental sustainability.Gardens are also great placesfor children to learn math,business and communicationskills through applied activitiesand interaction.Integratingenvironment-based educationinto academic programs improvesreading,math,science and social studiestest scores and reduces discipline problemsin the classroom [8].
Nutrition:Foodsecurity and access
Limited access to healthy foods,such as fruits and vegetables,isa major barrier to healthy eating.Low-income,underserved com-munities are at the highest risk for obesity because they oftenlack supermarkets,leavingconvenience stores or fast-foodchains as the main source of meals [5].Expensive fruits andvegetables may also be cost-prohibitive for low-incomefamilies.Community gardens provideresidents of underservedcommunities the opportunityto grow their own fruits andvegetables,increasing accessand affordability.
Physical activity
 The U.S.Surgeon General,alongwith the U.S.Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention and theAmerican College of SportsMedicine,recommends gettinga minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physicalactivity on most days of theweek for adults and 60 minutesof moderately or vigorouslyintense activity most days of the week for children andadolescents.Unfortunately,nearly 40% of adults and 23%of children do not get anyfree-time physical activity [6].Gardening is a recommendedform of moderate physical activity.Community gardening canencourage more active lifestylesby providing children and adultsthe opportunity to exercise bystretching,bending,walking,dig-ging and lifting tools and plants.
Green vegetation can reflect as much as 20% to 25% of radiationfrom the sun,thus reducing the heat island effect in cities andcooling the climate in urban areas [9].
In the United States,a meal travels about 13,000 miles,on average,before reaching your plate [10].Eating locally produced foodsreduces fuel consumption,carbon dioxide emissions,and a varietyof other negative environmental consequences associated withthe transportation of foods.
Garden soil is an absorbent substance that reduces runoff fromthe rain and helps minimize surface erosion.
Gardens reduce pollutants in our air by absorbing carbon dioxide.
Small open spaces in urban areas provide crucial corridors forretaining native wildlife and supporting migratory species [11].
Environment and EducationEnvironmental Benefits
 
Property values and tax revenues
Green space adds property value to neighborhoods bybeautifying spaces and creating more attractive placesfor people to walk and enjoy life outdoors.Peopleare willing to pay more to live in places with theseamenities.In New York,neighborhoods surroundinga community garden saw a 9.4% increase in propertyvalues within the first five years of its opening [12].
Community services
Community gardens can be integrated into broadercommunity projects such as after-school programsfor children,activities for the elderly and resourcesfor food banks and homeless shelters.In Seattle,thecity’s P-Patch Program works with the not-for-profitP-Patch Trust to supply between 7 to 10 tons of produce to Seattle food banks each year throughtheir well-developed community garden network.
Community pride and ownership
 The safety and vitality of a healthy community reliesheavily upon the invested pride and ownership thatresidents have for their neighborhood.Communitygardens offer a focal point for neighborhood organiz-ing,and can lead to community-based efforts to dealwith other social concerns.They give youth a safeplace to interact with peers,while involving them inbeneficial activities [7].Community gardens canincrease safety by providing more eyes on the street[13].Communities that develop semi-public spaceswhere people can become actively engaged in theircommunity have significantly lower crime rates thanneighborhoods where these amenities do not exist [14].
Food policy council sows seeds forimproved health and nutrition
I
n Oregon,the Portland/Multnomah Food PolicyCouncil was developed in 2002 by the City of Portland and Multnomah County.Housed in Portland’s Office of Sustainable Develop-ment,the Food Policy Council provides researchand recommendations to the city on institutionalfood practices,citizen food awareness,hungerand food access,land use policies,business andeconomic issues and environmental impacts onthe food system.
Community gardens are affordable
T
he annual cost of most community gardensare minimal because residents,rather thancity employees,are responsible for maintainingthe gardens.Cities can help establish communitygardens by identifying and purchasing viable sitesfor gardens,providing water for irrigation,necessaryinfrastructure as a one-time capital expense,andinsurance liability to relieve small nonprofits orcommunity members of this burden.Some cities provide organizational structure forcommunity gardens through their parks andrecreation departments as a strategy for long-term survival.For example,the Burlington AreaCommunity Garden in Vermont is a partnershipbetween the city’s parks department and thenonprofit Friends of Burlington Gardens.The cityprovides administrative,office and staff supportand in-kind equipment contributions.It overseeseight community gardens at a total annual costof $40,000,which is partially offset by $17,000 ingarden revenue each year.www.enjoyburlington.com/Programs/CommunityGardens.cfm and www.burlingtongardens.org
Costs and Benefits
 
Gardening in San Diego schools
I
n San Diego,students at Rosa Parks ElementarySchool enjoy the benefits of a communitygarden right on their school’s campus.Theschool is located in the City Heights neighborhoodwhere residents are predominately Latino,African-American and Southeast Asian,and 55% of familiesearn incomes below the federal poverty level. The teachers use the school’s community gardento take students outside the classroom and offerinteractive instruction on health and nutrition,science,mathematics,ecology and agriculture.

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