Battling food insecurity through community gardening
By Urban Harvest
of us know what community gardening is, but do we know what the
term community food security means? Generally, it refers to the
availability and accessibility, or the lack thereof, of healthy
food to all residents of a community. For Harris County, the
USDA estimates about 12 percent of our population is food
insecure, which is about the national average. Of course, some
communities experience greater food insecurity than others.
Explained another way, this is the percentage of our population
that does not always know how it is getting its next meal.
Community gardens have become an important tool in the arsenal
to combat food insecurity. Community gardening is simply the
growing of healthy food on a piece of land in a specific
community by those in the community to share among themselves
and with others through donation. This plot of land can be
privately owned, a church, school, hospital, community center
and more recently, a vacant lot made available through the city.
The most obvious direct benefit of a community garden is
producing nutritious food that those in the community like to
eat at a fraction of the cost of purchased food, if that food is
even available from a local source. When a neighborhood
collectively produces a supply of seasonal fresh food from a
community garden, family food budgets are reduced and the
quality of life of the gardeners and the community is increased.
Individual awareness of the importance of healthy fresh food in
our diet is also critical in the fight against a growing obesity
problem, especially among our young. Community gardens help
foster a collective awareness of knowing where your food comes
from, how it was grown and its role in good health.
Fortunately, there is a strong interest in Houston and
throughout the United States, to grow more food in our
neighborhoods through the community garden concept. Urban
Harvest is the principal organization that promotes this goal
locally through its free three part series, Starting a Community
Garden, not to mention the myriad of discounted "growing"
classes for members and community gardeners.
Getting involved in community food gardening will help to
improve food security in your immediate neighborhood and in the
general population through donations to local food pantries. It
does make a difference.
What can you do? Volunteer at one of the many community gardens
around the city. Start a community garden either in an area that
lacks access to fresh produce or a donation garden to help
provide for those in need. Donate to existing gardens money,
time or supplies ----it all will be welcome.
This article is provided by Urban Harvest, Inc. To learn
about gardening classes, farmers markets, school and community
gardens and more go to
www.urbanharvest.org or call
713-880-5540 for more information. This article was written by
Scott Howard, who is the coordinator of the North Montrose
Community Garden, which donates its food to a local soup
kitchen. He has served on the Urban Harvest Board of Directors
for a number of years, and is currently serving as Urban
Harvestís President of the board of directors.