2020 WIN Conference
Our primary aim was to investigate whether gardens were a source of nutrition for the food bank users we sampled, and whether food bank recipients would be interested in using gardens as a nutritional resource.
Food bank users represent an important population to explore the benefits of garden access for because they are at risk for insufficient access to fresh nutrient dense foods, may benefit from a low cost alternative sources of food, and they experience higher incidence of food insecurity. The activity of gardening also provides a myriad of secondary health benefits such as elevating mood, easing anxiety, vast cardiovascular benefits, and increasing general wellbeing.
In addition to personal health benefits, gardening has been shown to promote expansion of community networks and social cohesion for those who participate. According to a systematic review of literature gardening improves participant’s health; provides important cultural ecosystem services (recreation, cultural enrichment, and community building); and can be way for a meaningful quantity of food to be grown.
The database was based on survey and interviews of 207 recipients of the food bank of a mid-size city in the Pacific Northwest. A series of t-tests and chi-square analysis were used to test for relationship between use of home/community gardens as a supplemental food source and various health variables.
A total of 175 adults responded to questions on garden use. Of those, no significant differences were observed between using home or community gardens as a source for food, and any of the measured health variables (pain, depressive symptoms, sleep disturbance, body mass index). A significant positive relationship was noted between food bank users who expressed interest in using community gardens and those who reported home or community gardens as a source for food (r = .24; p = 005). While 49 (28%) of survey respondents reported they use home or community gardens as a food source, 64 (37%) state that they are interested in using community gardens. Of those who are interested in gardens, more than half (53%) reported running out of food due to lack of money.
Food bank users are receptive to gardens as a possible food source. Opportunities exist to possibly influence food and land use policy, to increase food resilience by increasing gardening capacity in both communities and individual residences.
A future longitudinal study may be needed to detect relationships between gardening and possible secondary health benefits, in addition to quantify the impact on food insecurity for those who garden. In this study, it was not possible to quantify the amount of food obtained from gardens or whether respondents were engaged in gardening activities themselves.
Beese, Shawna; Bigand, Teresa; and Wilson, Marian L., "Planting the Seeds of Health and Resilience" (2020). Articles, Abstracts, and Reports. 4577.