Why Food Gardens?

GARDENS HAVE THE POWER TO NOURISH OUR BODIES, CREATE MORE EQUALITY, GROW MORE RESILIENT COMMUNITIES AND COOL OUR WARMING PLANET

We live in a time of unprecedented global challenges which seem so daunting, complex and interconnected that it is easy to feel helpless and lose hope. Some of the defining issues of this generation are improving mental and physical health, alleviating food and financial insecurity, creating more resilient communities and combatting the climate crisis. While all of these issues require large-scale communication and mobilization, we don’t have to wait for our political leaders to act to begin making progress in these areas. Growing some of our own food either in our backyard or in our community is a simple yet effective way of taking power over our health and well-being while at the same time working for the greater good.

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly established 17 Sustainable Development Goals designed to serve as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.

Planting MORE Food gardens, BOTH AT HOMES AND IN PUBLIC PLACES, CAN HELP US MAKE PROGRESS TOWARDS many of these goals:

By growing gardens, people can increase their access to healthy foods while reducing their food budget.

Within the United States alone, 37 million people go hungry on a regular basis. On top of this, in many communities healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are hard to find or prohibitively expensive. These areas are commonly referred to as food deserts. Gardening can help combat these situations. A study by researchers at Santa Clara University found that the maintenance of a garden was associated with higher consumption of vegetables. Another study carried out in San Jose found that people who maintained a home garden saved an average of $92 a month and people who belonged to a community garden saved an average of $84 a month. These savings stack up and can make a real difference especially if you consider that 54% of American adults are struggling with some aspect of their financial lives.

Gardens can alleviate stress, increase mental well-being and encourage healthy eating habits.

Over the years there have been a variety of studies investigating both the mental and physical effects of gardening. One of these studies found that gardening helped relieve stress in families with a member in the marines. Another found that gardening helped children focus on schoolwork, enhancing academic performance. Yet another found that, after gardening, kids have an increased interest in eating fruit and vegetables. Gardening has also been associated with lowered blood-pressure and better eating habits.

School gardens are powerful educational tools that can be used to teach students myriad subjects.

School gardens can provide real-life examples for lessons related to ecology, biology, sustainability, health and geography. For example, gardens that use compost are great for teaching students about the life-cycle. The stimulation of a living example helps students focus on the subject at hand, making teaching easier for the teachers. There are demonstrable positive effects on students who spend time in gardens. Multiple studies have found that third, fourth and fifth graders who spent regular time learning in and interacting with a garden scored higher on science achievement tests.

Gardens promote gender equity and women’s empowerment, especially in the global south.

Traditional gender roles vary widely and, in many places, they need to change in order to reach gender equity. Gardening can play a role in driving toward greater gender equity. A 2015 study, run in Bangladesh, found that growing a garden ensured that women had more control of food supplies and income, as well as increasing their self-confidence and feelings of worth within their community.

Growing community gardens leads to growing more sustainable and better-connected communities.

A study of the Robert Taylor Housing Development in Chicago found that more frequent use of green spaces lead to more neighbor interactions and increased familiarity which in turn leads to stronger more supportive neighborhoods. Community gardens take this one step further, not only do they lead to neighborhood familiarity but they also train people to coordinate and work together. Once you know how to work on issues with your neighbors you can start work towards important goals outside of gardening, too. After gardening, kids possess an appreciation for working with neighborhood adults, and have an increased interest for improvement of neighborhood appearance.

Food gardens help decrease Greenhouse Gas emissions and encourage people to act in sustainable ways.

A report by the UN Environmental Programme warns that global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions need to decrease by at least 7.6% between now and 2030 in order to be on track to hit the 1.5℃ temperature goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement. We’re going to need systemic change in order to ensure we don’t face the worst case scenarios for the climate crisis. That means governments are going to need to step up and international collaboration on the issue will need to get stronger. However, in the meantime, planting more gardens is one way we can start to work at this issue. According to a study by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018), published in the journal Science, food production accounts for about 26% of global GHG emissions. Every kilogram of produce grown in a garden instead of being bought in a store reduces Greenhouse Gas emissions by two kilograms. More garden-grown foods means fewer GHG emissions and a brighter future.