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Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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New research: Santa Clara urban gardens

Improved diet, food security for low-income families

Improved diet, food security for low-income families

Leslie Gray urban garden
Leslie Gray urban garden

 

ESS Chair Leslie Gray, along with co-authors Lucy Diekmann (UC Extension) and Greg Baker (SCU Food and Agribusiness Institute), have published new research in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. The article, "Growing ‘good food’: urban gardens, culturally acceptable produce and food security" evaluates the contributions of three types of urban gardens in Santa Clara County, California, to food security and food culture.

The authors collected data from home gardeners, community gardeners, and gardeners participating in community food security programs, which provide low-income families material to grow their own vegetables. Weighing of garden produce demonstrated that all garden types produced enough produce for at least one adult to consume the number of cups of vegetables recommended by federal nutrition guidelines. Gardening also increased some low-income gardeners' access to healthy food, allowing them to have the diet they wanted--one high in organically grown vegetables--but could not otherwise afford to purchase.

Through interview, gardeners also articulated a broader set of values concerning the environmental and social conditions of food production. At all income levels, gardeners frequently described a set of food values related to knowledge, control, trust, freshness, flavor, organic production methods, and sharing, which they were able to enact through gardening. Taken together, these findings demonstrate the nutritional contributions that urban gardens make, but also highlight the importance that low-income gardeners place on having food that aligns with their cultural and ethical values and being able to exercise greater autonomy in making food choices.

 

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