Food Security, Nutrition and Community Gardens
Current efforts to address hunger and food security use a comprehensive approach that draws the connections between poverty, environmentalism and community development. “Community food security is a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice.
One aspect of food security is that people can acquire food in socially acceptable ways, without having to resort to relying on emergency food supplies, scavenging or stealing. For many in the field, this means working cooperatively with food growers, distributors, anti-poverty activists, environmentalists, low-income people and local governments to develop local, sustainable food systems. Community gardens are one popular strategy that can help address the need for safe, nutritious food while simultaneously building connections among people. To address food security in your community, try implementing some of the tips below.
Promote policies that support urban agriculture. When inner-city residents gain the ability to grow and consume or market their own food, results may include improved health, economic development and community revitalization. Supportive policies may include free or low-cost water, simplified permitting requirements or interim land use agreements.
Transform vacant lots, rooftops, or designated areas of schoolyards or parks into community gardens. Community gardens not only provide access to fresh, nutritious food – they also serve as a place to build supportive relationships among people of all ages and backgrounds.
Organize a “tool library” where gardeners can share or rent tools. Seek supplies from local businesses.
Tap community expertise in gardening and food preservation. Community kitchens, Master Gardeners, food banks, vendors at farmers’ markets, university cooperative extension programs and new immigrants often have valuable skills and knowledge to share.
Expand access to locally grown food by making it available through school meal programs, hospitals, senior centers and farmers’ markets.
Advocate for food labeling that indicates where the food was grown.
Educate the community about the importance of good nutrition for child development and educational achievement, chronic disease prevention, and obesity prevention.
Communicate with policymakers about your ideas and concerns. Write a letter, call or visit your local, state and/or federal representatives to share your opinion.
Evaluate the outcome of your efforts to help gain community involvement, additional funding and support for new policies. Consider outcome measures such as increased consumption of fruits and vegetables or process measures such as the number of gardeners.