When we started the Office of Health Equity in Hillsborough County, we set out to accomplish six main goals within our communities:
- Promote physical activity and nutrition
2. Build capacity for communities to be able to institute environmental, organizational and policy changes related to these health risk factors
3. Foster improved and increased access to quality care
4. Help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities
5. Reduce incidence of and complications from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity
6. Reduce tobacco use and exposure
Here’s how community gardens help to serve our neighborhoods in some of these ways:
Promote Physical Activity and Nutrition
Setting up a community garden is not just the job of one community member — it is the job of all community members. Each household or person has an individual plot to tend, and in some cases there is a community plot set aside for everyone to work on. This promotes physical activity because it forces residents to get out of their houses and do physical work to keep up with their own plot.
The beauty of it is the end result is fresh vegetables that members can take home and serve their families! For many families, that means better access to nutritious foods.
Build capacity for communities to be able to institute environmental, organizational and policy changes related to these health risk factors
Starting a community garden is inherently social. Families are not growing vegetables in their own yards – they are doing it on the community plot. Not only does this help engage citizens in being active members of their neighborhoods, but it gets people out of their houses and socializing. The stronger the bonds neighborhood residents build, the less crime you will see because they will look out for each other.
This also builds a system of sustainability within the neighborhood – a way to educate about good nutrition and start up a variety of different learning workshops — it provides a catalyst for further community development and programs by getting people talking.
Help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities
Creating a space for neighborhood residents to work and communicate does more than beautify the neighborhood; it helps to eliminate one of the reasons for disparities among racial and ethnic groups. Many racial and ethnic disparities occur due to the lack of resources and access to fresh food.
Community gardens provide free, self-grown food in a community environment that will allow its residents to have access to fresh foods, help conserve resources, and provide a green space. Many community gardens in the area are used as an arena for health workshops and further education as it is an easy way to gather and engage a specific community.
Reduce incidence of and complications from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity
Ultimately, everything already discussed will lead to a decrease in incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes by providing the following:
· Access to free, locally grown and nutritious fresh foods
· A space for both physical and recreational activities
Here are some other great benefits that community gardens provide:
· Preserves green space within the neighborhood
· Creates possible income opportunities as residents learn a skill: gardening
· Provides opportunities for cross-cultural and intergenerational connections
· Raises nearby property values