Community Gardening for Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyles and Healthy Communities

This article is contributed by Karl Stockton.

Gardening as a holistic solution for many of society’s ills was first recognized in the late 19th century school gardening movement. Leaders in the Progressive Movement, many of them directly engaged in public schools, saw gardens as an opportunity to instill the civic virtues of thrift and community while also allowing urban children the opportunity for healthy meals.

community garden

Community gardens are now being built by neighborhoods and citizen groups with the help of local leaders across the country for the same fundamental reasons. Some of the problems are thought of in different terms, but it turns out that community gardens are already providing many of the solutions needed now.

Feeding At-Risk Groups

The rate of obesity is still increasing, and researchers continue to find new ways obesity adversely impacts health and increases the cost of health maintenance. Obesity appears in every demographic, but nowhere is it more pronounced than in populations suffering the highest poverty levels. Malnutrition is just as much a cause of obesity as a sedentary lifestyle. Community gardens ensure that local residents have the opportunity to grow their own fresh food. With more resources, these gardens can invest in garden technologies to maximize the growing season and expand into aquaculture and hydroponics applications. Gardens with surplus produce can feed those who lack an opportunity to grow their own.

Exercise and Nutrition

The USDA recommends a minimum five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, yet the average is just 1-2 in the general population. The CDC recommends 120 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly, and the average person gets less than half of this. Besides providing access to fresh food, community gardens make it safer for children to play outside while adults get the exercise inherent in garden chores.

Bringing Down Barriers to Healthy Eating

child with chicken in community garden Studies of food preference in elementary schools have consistently shown children are more adverse to unknown foods. Unfortunately, most vegetables are largely unknown to modern children. Growing vegetables has been proven to help in overcoming this barrier to nutritious eating. Children are far more inclined to try and enjoy a vegetable they had a hand in growing.

Interdisciplinary Education

In poor and middle-class neighborhoods, teachers have trouble maintaining the interest of their students. This is partly due to a curriculum that is largely divorced from the concerns of everyday life. Community gardens are a way of healing this rift. Gardening can incorporate every formal discipline from basic math to advanced trigonometry, many scientific disciplines, cultural studies, history, and language. Gardening classrooms have also been shown to increase civic pride of children and adults, reduce attention problems, and foster cooperation.

Strengthening Community

teens in community garden
A central goal of the sustainability movement is building community. The more people in a community are able to rely on each other for food, goods and security, the less they need to rely on top-heavy, outside corporations and organizations. Food is the start of building community interdependence, and safe public space is a necessary ingredient. Community gardens provide both with the result of stronger and more resilient community bonds.

Investing in communities is a hot topic now, and nowhere does this investment offer better returns than in community gardens. Increasing local resources, spurring healthy lifestyle changes, and allowing individuals the opportunity to become less dependent on outside forces are all important features of this holistic solution. As many benefits as they offer, it is still up to citizens and local leaders to make community gardens possible.

Author Bio: This article was written by Karl Stockton for the team at who are experts on topics such as medical billing and coding salaries.

Photo Credits Community Garden: Courtesy of JeremyStapleton via photo pin cc Child with Chicken in Community Garden: Courtesy of JeremyStapleton via photo pin cc Teens Community Gardening: Courtesy of jonny.hunter via photo pin cc

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