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Sarah Riegel
Professor Jan Rieman
UWRT 1103
November 5, 2014
Extended Inquiry Research Synthesis
What I Have Learned
Throughout this process of inquiry, I have gained a better understanding of how questions
form and change with further research and exploration. At the start of this process, the question I
asked was, Does the go local movement in food build a sense of belonging within a
community or exacerbate division between the haves and the have-nots in a community? I
developed this question after exploring the website of Sow Much Good, a nonprofit organization
committed to providing food justice for those in food deserts.
Food deserts were not a new concept to me. In the AP Literature and Composition class I
took during my senior year of high school, food deserts were brought into various conversations.
However, many of these conversations centered on the question of how those with low access to
healthy foods or with low income could manage or afford to eat local, organic, or healthy foods.
Though the problem was discussed multiple times, a concrete solution was never given. I began
to recognize as I explored my options for this extended inquiry project that I was eager to answer
the questions posed in my AP Literature and Composition class discussion.
It is my belief that the issue of food deserts is one that should be considered high priority
by policy makers, at least at the local level, and all Americans. UNC Charlottes Mecklenburg
County Food Assessment of 2010 revealed 72,793 Charlotte residents living in food deserts.
These food deserts are shifted toward Northwest Charlotte, and one third of the citizens living in

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them receive SNAP benefits. Low access to stores offering healthy foods has been linked to
severe health concerns, such as diabetes and heart disease.
As I considered this complex issue, my first thought was to consider what effect farmers
markets had on a community. I was intrigued by this idea mostly because I had some experience
with farmers markets in my hometown. However, as I continued researching I came across
numerous nonprofit organizations and the concept of community gardens to combat local
hunger. I latched on to a quote by Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dan Murrey outlined in
the article, Inside a Charlotte Food Desert. In response to growing concern about food deserts
and health disparities, Murrey said, "We're seeing it here in Charlotte, and we're trying to do
something grassroots to deal with it." I began to define local food movements as these
aforementioned grassroots initiatives. My question became, Are locally grown food initiatives a
viable solution to hunger in our community, and how does this affect community identity?
It was originally my intention to research farmers markets, community gardens, and
nonprofit organizations in the course of trying to answer my question. However, after my
individual inquiry conference with Dr. Jan Rieman, I began to consider how I could make my
inquiry more specific. I realized that by just focusing on one of the three local initiatives, I could
provide much more specific, revealing information. I in turn hoped that this would lend itself to a
more impactful final product. After reading Inside a Charlotte Food Desert, which mentioned
community gardens, and learning that UNC Charlotte has a community garden, I became
interested in this idea. Thus, I settled on my final extended inquiry question: Do community
gardens offer a viable solution to local hunger in Mecklenburg County, and how do they affect
community identity?

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In regards to the first part of my question, I have found some research that suggests
community gardens could appeal to those with low income in food deserts. For instance, a 1973
amendment to the Food Stamp Act allows seeds to be bought with SNAP benefits, which the
organization SNAP Gardens encourages SNAP receivers to utilize. Community gardens offer
exercise and fresh, healthy food to their gardeners.
In addition, there are cases of intersection of nonprofit organizations or farmers markets
with community gardens. An example of the first is the Make a Green Noise nonprofit in Los
Angeles, which creates roving community gardens. This organization also works to increase
familiarity with fruits and vegetables, teaching people how to cook with unfamiliar foods they
grow. An example of a community garden and farmers market partnership can be seen with the
Hands and Heart community garden in New York City. This allowed the couple responsible for
the garden to start a small, lucrative business and provide fresh produce to people in a low
income area where diabetes is prevalent.
However, I have also found a fair amount of information to suggest that community
gardens are less likely to appeal to those in food deserts. The article Inside a Charlotte Food
Desert explained that the community garden plots in Charlotte are in high demand, and so few
people who could benefit most from them cannot find an open plot. In direct contrast to this,
Brett Tempest, Irwin Creek Community Garden representative, says that they have had a lot of
trouble interesting community members in gardening despite high projections of interest. I
emailed eighteen people listed as contacts for thirty-four gardens on the Mecklenburg County
Health Department list of community gardens in the area. Of these eighteen, six replied. Of these
six, Irwin Creek Community Garden is the only garden located in a food desert where a
significant number of residents are low income and more than one mile away from the nearest

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supermarket, the largest measurement of food deserts listed on the USDAs Food Access
Research Map. In addition, within these six gardens, there was a great deal of variation between
how much of the food was donated, supplemented the growers diet significantly, or served as
the product of a recreational activity.
All six of the gardens in Mecklenburg County that I have information for, excluding
Irwin Creek Community Garden, agreed that the ties between their members were strong. One
representative even went so far as to call their members family. Winterfield Garden reported
that it has worked with Parks & Recreation, the Health Department, Winterfield Elementary, and
local businesses. Nadine Ford, the representative of one garden located in a food desert of a halfmile radius explained that the gardeners do not consider the area a food desert because there is
public transportation available and they feel it is another way to classify the have and the have
nots. This demonstrates a certain comradery I was not expecting.

How I Will Enter the Conversation


For my final product, I know I want to incorporate a map that shows Mecklenburg
Countys food deserts and community gardens. I will have to use the USDAs Food Access
Research Map in conjunction with the Mecklenburg County Health Department list of
community gardens. I hope to create a visually appealing format in which to present my findings
on how community gardens do or do not combat hunger and influence community identity. I am
unsure what exact shape this will take. I would like for the map to remain the central idea, with
supporting information surrounding it. Perhaps a Prezi presentation would be a genre with the
necessary functions. In some ways, I feel an academic research paper would be helpful to
making the connections necessary to understanding the significance of my research. I suppose a
more elaborate presentation could do this as well.

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At the moment, I am unsure of who I want to be my audience for this information. This
should really be decided before I decide which genre to use, since I cannot have much rhetorical
knowledge without knowing my audience. My main problem is that I am not sure of my purpose
in presenting the information.
I feel as though I need to more research on Charlotte-specific community gardens as
initiatives for improving food disparities since my research is somewhat inconclusive on whether
they actually improve access to fresh food for those in food deserts. I want to find further
information on how to improve community gardens to reach this end. If I could find significant
material relating to this, my purpose could easily be centered on suggesting ways to improve or
expand the community gardens in Mecklenburg County. My audience would probably become
people of influence in Mecklenburg County, such as City Hall members, other policy makers, or
business executives. I could write to various officials in Mecklenburg County, including the
county commissioner.
If I find more information supporting the platform that Charlotte-specific community
gardens are acting to improve food disparities, I will probably create a presentation of some sort
for the class. My motivation for this would be to increase education about local community
gardens as solutions to food deserts. One of the garden representatives I have been in contact
with requested to see my research after I have completed the final product. If I create a class
presentation or academic paper, I will expand my audience to include the current community
gardens in Mecklenburg County. Perhaps my research could even help them in advertising their
gardens to the public or enacting change of their own.