Community Gardens Provide Opportunity
Written by Sandra Ledesma
Gardening and agriculture have been a part of human society and development since the beginning of time. Gardens provide many things for people in society, such as nutrition, biodiversity, and improved air and soil quality. Community gardens can also provide opportunities to improve mental health and promote relaxation, as they seem to naturally combat the negative impact of modern, urban society.
Many cities and urban areas have become “food poor” and disconnected from healthy food sources and options. As a result of urban planning, a disproportionate number of lower economic communities have literally been left with only processed and overpriced food options. When families and communities are left with no transportation to healthier, more affordable food options, what becomes available is fast and chemically treated food that can only provide poor nutrition. Recent studies have shown that children raised in “food poor” conditions are more prone to be under or even malnourished simply because they have no opportunity to choose healthier, more nutritious foods. Urban gardening can help support these neighborhoods and communities that have no fresh or green food available within the recommended 1-2-mile radius of where they live, work, or go to school. Gardens can at least provide healthy snack alternatives with seasonal fruits and vegetables, and more importantly, provide exposure to different food items other than what is purchased at a store or is processed in some way. Poor nutrition and obesity are both challenges to low-income neighborhoods. Low accessibility to nutritious foods can cause health problems to residents located in these food deserts. The addition of gardens to these areas may improve nutrition and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Community gardens can also bring together biodiversity to an under used, under resourced and often neglected portion of land or area. People often think of parks as the only source of green urban area, but that is not the case. A current response to negative impacts of urban development has been encouraging community gardening. Attention has been brought to smaller, vacant neighborhood lots that can be temporarily used as food, pollinator, and native species gardens. With raised bed and container gardens, whole areas can be transformed to support life and to create more green space. Biodiversity has been shown to promote healthy living environments for plants, animals, and humans. Insects are also an important part of eco diversity and have opportunity to flourish in community supported garden areas.
Mental health and wellbeing is a topic that is becoming an increasingly popular measure for health providers, government agencies, and schools that can reflect societal contentedness and population progress. Wellbeing is more than the absence of disease; it encompasses good physical and mental functioning with resilience, positive emotional experiences and overall life satisfaction. Wellbeing is important to consider in the context of community gardens because while wellbeing may not be the intended end goal of community gardens, many of the outcomes of community garden participation positively influence wellbeing. Community gardens provide more then sustained nutrition, as they can also provide opportunity to sustain positive ideas, healthy life choices, and community ties that can last a lifetime.
Foodie Corner: Summer Recipe
(Recipe provided by Sandra Salazar)
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 medium sweet potato
4 ounces kale
1 bell pepper
2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
For the dressing
1/4 cup cashews
1/3 cup basil
1/4 cup parsley
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 clove of garlic
Salt as needed
Water to dilute to desired consistency
How to prepare:
1. Soak cashews in warm water for 15 min (feel free to heat up water on the stove top or even quickly heat it in the microwave then add the nuts to soften)
2. Boil 1 cup of water on the stove pot, add in quinoa, reduce to low heat and cover. Allow this to simmer for approximately 20-25min. Similar to rice, remove from heat, allow it to cool and fluff with a fork.
3. Make the dressing! Combine all dressing ingredients together in a blender. Blend until smooth and remember to add in water to reach desired consistency.
4. Steam the sweet potato and kale on the stove top using a steamer insert. To save time, use the microwave to steam your veggies. Also note: you do not have to steam the kale if you do not wish to. Make sure everything is chopped up into bite size pieces.
5. Assemble the salad! Don’t forget to cut up the bell pepper to toss into the salad. Bonus points if you use an array of colored bell peppers. Combine the sweet potato, kale, and quinoa in bowl.
6. Drizzle time! Add in your homemade dressing to your veggie bowl and toss some pepitas for an added crunch.
School Garden Corner
|STAR after school program: Wrote what we learned in garden class this year.||Homeschool: Homemade rose, lavender, and aloe vera balm.|