Monday, May 2, 2011

Growing Food to Make a Difference

Hi Everyone!

  Katie here! Each of our community gardens in Northeast Florida has a different story of how they came to be and serve a wide variety of people in the community. Some of the gardens are small and individuals tend their own plot in which they grow their own food. There are other gardens, large and small, that rent plots for a fee and others that offer plots at no charge. As for the harvest; there are many different ways in which that is used too! We have some gardens that process their harvest for families that rely on the food banks. There are some gardens with gardeners tending their entire plot just to donate. We have some gardens with multiple beds being tended for local food banks and food pantries.

    We all know that there are hungry people. We all know that there are poor people. We all know there are unhealthy people. Do we really know how a community garden can make a difference for the people facing those struggles? One part of this systemic problem is the result of food deserts. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts based on the communities' socioeconomic status. A food desert community must meet the federally recognized definition of 'low-income' or 'low-access'. The federal guidelines, as published on the USDA website for these deliniations are as follows:

1. They qualify as "low-income communities", based on having: a) a poverty rate of 20 percent or greater, OR b) a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area median family income; AND
2. They qualify as "low-access communities", based on the determination that at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the census tract's population live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (10 miles, in the case of non-metropolitan census tracts).

   Community gardens, especially in our area with an extended growing season, can go a long way towards combating food deserts. Imagine, every neighborhood having a community garden. Imagine, every school having a garden. Imagine, churches and hospitals with gardens. The amount of food that we could grow is, for me, unfathomable. The impact that we could have on people's wallets and their health is also staggering.

Photo credit: Joey Marchy (www.urbanjacksonville.info)
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  What if you don't like to get dirty? What if you can't stay out in the Florida sun long enough to water or harvest? Luckily, there are many ways to get involved in the community gardening movement in Northeast Florida. First, check out our Directory/Maps tab to see where a garden already exists in your neighborhood.  Then email or call them to see how you can get involved. They can always use people to help plan events, coordinate donations, assist with fundraisers, and much more!

-Katie