The Importance of Community Gardens
By: Lethan Hampton
It's no secret that healthy eating can be expensive. Furthermore, having access to fresh fruit and vegetables is not a privilege everyone can have. In most of the big cities, supermarkets such as Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, and Central Market are usually located in the center of predominantly white communities. In Sunnyside, one of Houston's most low-income neighborhoods, adult obesity rates are “higher than in the City of Houston, 30.3% and 28.0%, respectively” (Source). Sunnyside, along with two other low-income communities, consists of over 45% of residents below national poverty rates (Source). It's not a coincidence that these same communities have high chronic disease prevalence and lack sufficient access to quality and affordable produce, which results in them heavily relying upon convenience stores and fast-food restaurants as their primary food source.
The Houston Health Department has 12 recognized community gardens throughout the city, yet less than half are located in underserved areas. The introduction of community gardens in areas such as Sunnyside could reduce the impact of food deserts and allow citizens greater access to nutritious food.
These gardens can increase the availability of nutritious foods, influence the community members to live a healthier lifestyle by consuming organic foods, and prove beneficial in reducing negative environmental impact by promoting sustainable agriculture. Along with these significant implications, community gardens can improve dietary habits through education and reduce the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases, which people of underserved communities are quite susceptible to. It has become common knowledge that eating healthy leads to a happier life-a life that everyone should have the chance to live, no matter their socioeconomic status.
- Sunnyside is a low-income community in Houston, TX which has about half of its population lying below the national poverty line, unable to afford fresh and nutritious produce.
- People of underserved communities are more prone to obesity-related diseases and 30% of Sunnyside’s adult population is obese, a number 2 percentage points higher than that of the city of Houston.
- The introduction of community gardens in areas such as Sunnyside could reduce the impact of food deserts in this area and allow citizens of this community greater access to nutritious food that promotes a healthy lifestyle.