The social, health and environmental benefits
The Greater Lansing Food Bank sponsors the Garden Project throughout the Lansing area, which provides gardening supplies, educational tools and a network to build community gardens. The Food Bank states that it “Supports a network of more than 125-plus community gardens and more than 400 home gardens, serving an estimated 7,000 people.”
These gardens provide instruction to people interested in gardening and becoming self-sustainable. A self-sustainable growing community allows for people to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, benefiting their own health andthe environment.
Gardening can increase cardio and educate participants about healthy food options. Plus, being able to harvest food as soon as it ripens means that the food spends less time sitting in a grocery store. Gardeningmatters.org even reported that, “Almost 50 percent of the transported food is lost to spoilage,” meaning that half the food big companies try to grow gets thrown away anyway!
Growing food throughout the community can prevent detrimental additions to climate change by decreasing the amount of fumes released when transporting food and decreasing the amount of pesticides used. Adding more plants to an area by doing things like planting gardens can also decrease runoff. When it rains, soil is less likely to move, which can cause property damage and pollute water sources.
Greenleafcommunities.org also states that community gardens “Lead to decreased crime rates in a community, increased property value and increasing economic opportunities.” Gardeningmatters.org found a report from the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Urban Planning that stated, “In Milwaukee, properties within 250 feet of gardens experienced an increase of $24.77 with every foot, and the average garden was estimated to add approximately $9,000 a year to the city tax revenue.”
They also found a report from the American Journal of Community Psychology that stated “Scientific studies show that crime decreases in neighborhoods as the amount of green space increases, and that vegetation has been seen to alleviate mental fatigue, one of the precursors to violent behavior.” When people interact in a community event, they get to know the people around them and that can decrease stress. When people feel connected, they are less likely to feel or act violently toward them.
Many people gain personal benefits from contributing to a community garden. Emily Nicholls from the Hunter Park GardenHouse, part of the Allen Neighborhood Center, states that, “There are many examples of small gardens as well as large urban farms around the neighborhood, and we continually help neighbors find a production style that suits them.”
Jim Coty, leader of the Northwind Garden, explains that, “The gardeners grow produce for their own use …. There is benefit to simply growing community by offering this opportunity for people to connect in a common enterprise.”
Children have many opportunities to contribute and learn from community gardens. “We love to see children in the garden and [the Hunter Park GardenHouse] offers two programs for them to join us there (Take Root and the Youth Service Corps)” said Nicholls. “Many neighborhood children know of the GardenHouse as a safe and welcoming place.”
Nicholls states, “(Their) hope is that neighbors become empowered by growing their own food, as well as healthier by eating fresh vegetables and spending time outdoors. The neighborhood has become more vibrant and livelier … offering a community to folks excited by growing food.”
To become a part of your local community garden, go to greaterlansingfoodbank.org and search for community gardens.