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Research Regarding the Benefits of Community Gardens


Alaimo, Katherine PhD 1,  Elizabeth Packnett MPH, Richard A. Miles BS and Daniel J. Kruger PhD, Fruit and Vegetable Intake among Urban Community Gardeners,Journal of Nutrition Education and BehaviorVolume 40, Issue 2, March-April 2008, Pages 94-101

“Adults with a household member who participated in a community garden consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day than those who did not participate, and they were 3.5 times more likely to consume fruits and vegetables at least 5 times daily.”
1 Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
2 Prevention Research Center of Michigan/University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Dibsdall, LA, N Lambert, RF Bobbin and LJ Frewer. 2002. Low-income consumers’ attitudes and behavior towards access availability and motivation to eat fruit and vegetables. Public Health Nutrition, Volume 6, Issue 02, Apr 2002, pp 159-168

Commonly cited barriers to fruit and vegetable intake include cost, availability and acceptance. Community gardens have the potential to decrease these barriers by lowering the cost of produce, increasing access, and eventually increasing acceptance and improving taste perceptions of fruits and vegetables.

Jill S. Litt, Mah-J. Soobader, Mark S. Turbin, James W. Hale, Michael Buchenau, and Julie A. Marshall. 2011. The Influence of Social Involvement, Neighborhood Aesthetics, and Community Garden Participation on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption. American Journal of Public Health: August 2011, Vol. 101, No. 8, pp. 1466-1473.

Community gardeners consumed fruits and vegetables 5.7 times per day, compared with home gardeners (4.6 times per day) and nongardeners (3.9 times per day). Moreover, 56% of community gardeners met national recommendations to consume fruits and vegetables at least 5 times per day, compared with 37% of home gardeners and 25% of nongardeners. The qualities intrinsic to community gardens make them a unique intervention that can narrow the divide between people and the places where food is grown and increase local opportunities to eat better.

Read More: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2010.300111 Morris, Jennifer L., and Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr,. 2002 Garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum improves fourth-grade school children’s knowledge of nutrition and preferences for some vegetables, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 102 Number 1, January 2002 Pages 91-93

Nutrition knowledge scores for students in the nutrition education only (NL) and the nutrition education plus gardening(NG) were significantly great than those in the control group (CO) and these differences were maintained at the six month follow-up. Posttest Vegetable Preference scores for the NL and the NG groups were each significantly greater than those of the CO group for broccoli and carrots. In addition the NG group was significantly greater than both the other groups on snow peas and zucchini. At the six month follow up both the NL and NG groups remained significant for carrots and the NG was also still significant for broccoli, snow peas and zucchini. Their was no significant difference among the 3 sites in relation to the student’s willingness to taste the vegetables.

Ober Allen, Julie, Katherine Alaimo, Doris Elam; and Elizabeth Perry. 2008 Growing Vegetables and Values: Benefits of Neighborhood-Based Community Gardens for Youth Development and Nutrition. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, Volume 3, Issue 4, pages 418 – 439

Community gardens are one way that residents have mobilized to beautify urban neighborhoods, improve access to fresh produce, and engage youth. Qualitative case studies were conducted of two neighborhood-based community gardens with youth programs. Data collection included participant observation and in-depth interviews with adult gardeners and neighbors, youth, and community police officers. Results suggest that the garden programs provided opportunities for constructive activities, contributions to the community, relationship and interpersonal skill development, informal social control, exploring cognitive and behavioral competence, and improved nutrition. Community gardens promoted developmental assets for involved youth while improving their access to and consumption of healthy foods.
1. Department of Health Behavior & Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
2. Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI Online Publication Date: 11 December 2008

Community Development

Been, V. and I. Voicu. 2006. The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values, New York University School of Law, New York University Law and Economics Working Papers Paper 46.

“We find that the opening of a community garden has a statistically significant positive impact on residential properties within 1000 feet of the garden, and that the impact increases over time. We find that gardens have the greatest impact in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Higher quality gardens have the greatest positive impact. Finally, we find that the opening of a garden is associated with other changes in the neighborhood, such as increasing rates of homeownership, and thus may be serving as catalysts for economic redevelopment of the community.”

Schukoske, Jane E. 2000 Community Development Through Gardening: State and Local Policies Transforming Urban Open Space. Legislation and Public Policy. Vol.3:351

This article has addressed the beneficial influence that gardens can have in curbing the problems associated with vacant lots and urban blight. It has also highlighted the other social benefits that can be reaped from establishing a community garden. Further, this article has examined the state and local laws that govern community gardens as well as the role of intermediary organizations such as land trusts. By extracting those factors which have made garden programs successful in communities throughout the country, this article has set forth the elements of a model local ordinance.


Van Den Berg, Agnes E., and Mariette H. Custers. 2011. Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress. Journal of Health Psychology. 2011. 16:3-11

Stress-relieving effects of gardening were hypothesized and tested in a field experiment. Thirty allotment gardeners performed a stressful Stroop task and were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading on their own allotment plot. Salivary cortisol levels and self-reported mood were repeatedly measured. Gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. Positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress.

Multiple Benefits

Armstrong, Donna. 2000. A survey of community gardens in upstate New York: Implications for health promotion and community development. Health & Place 6 (2000) 319-327

Twenty community garden programs in upstate New York (representing 63 gardens) were surveyed to identify characteristics that may be useful to facilitate neighborhood development and health promotion. The most commonly expressed reasons for participating in gardens were access to fresh foods, to enjoy nature, and health benefits. Gardens in low-income neighborhoods (46%) were four times as likely as non low-income gardens to lead to other issues in the neighborhood being addressed; reportedly due to organizing facilitated through the community gardens.

Draper, C and D. Freedman. 2010. Review and Analysis of the Benefits, Purposes, and Motivations Associated with Community Gardening in the United States. Journal of Community Practice, 18(4) 458 – 492

Community gardens have been a part of modern American culture since the late 19th century. Participation in community gardening has ebbed and flowed in response to changing socioeconomic conditions, and thus the current economic recession has reheightened public interest. In a review of the scholarly literature from 1999 to 2010, rigorous quantitative research studies on the effects of community gardens are found to be sparse; however, a larger body of qualitative data is available. Eleven themes related to the purposes, benefits of, and motivations for participating in community gardens are identified. Community gardens can serve as an effective tool for community-based practitioners in carrying out their roles within the arenas of organizing, development, and change.

McFarland, A.L. , T.M. Waliczek and J.M. Zajicek. 2008. The Relationship Between Student Use of Campus Green Spaces and Perceptions of Quality of Life,HortTechnology 18:232-238 (2008)

Students’ perception of their overall academic experience and the campus environment is related to academic accomplishment. The designed environment of the university can influence the degree of stress students may feel. Undergraduate student use of campus green spaces and perceptions of quality of life were related to each other. Popular press coverage of the research in Campus Green Spaces Enhance Quality Of Life,Science Daily News 9/30/08.

Teig, E., et al., Collective efficacy in Denver, Colorado: Strengthening neighborhoods and health through community gardens. Health & Place (2009), doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.06.003

The social organizational underpinnings of gardens give rise to a range of social processes, including social connections, reciprocity, mutual trust, collective decision-making, civic engagement and community building, all important processes associated with improving individual health and strengthening neighborhoods (Twiss et al., 2003; Armstrong, 2000; Cohen et al., 2006; Landman, 1993). Such processes can be fostered through community gardens through key activities such as volunteerism, leadership, neighborhood activities and recruitment. The place-based social processes found in community gardens support collective efficacy, a powerful mechanism for enhancing the role of gardens in promoting health.

Wakefield, S, F. Yeudall, C. Taron, J. Reynolds and A. Skinner. 2007 Growing urban health: Community gardening in South-East Toronto. Health Promotion International 2007 22(2):92-101; Oxford University Press

Results suggest that community gardens were perceived by gardeners to provide numerous health benefits, including improved access to food, improved nutrition, increased physical activity and improved mental health. Community gardens were also seen to promote social health and community cohesion.

Written By

Photo of Dr. Lucy BradleyDr. Lucy BradleyExtension Urban Horticulture Specialist (919) 513-2001 lucy_bradley@ncsu.eduHorticultural Science - NC State University
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