Friday, April 23, 2010

Community Gardens and Urban Farming - Creative Solutions to Nagging Problems




For the past couple of years at Central Dallas Ministries, I, our CEO and President Larry James, Sonia White, who oversees CDM's food distribution and nutrition programs and what some would consider an improbable group: low-income community residents, young executives from Pepsico-Frito Lay, research physicians, community leaders, church leaders and other CDM staff have been engaged in conversations about the benefits of community gardens in urban centers.

It is a relatively new phenomenon, but one that is catching on across the country.

Our education outreach program at the Roseland Homes public housing development have started one. ARAMARK sent 100 volunteers to work with CDM a few weeks ago and one of their project was a community garden behind Central Dallas Church. Still other churches, non-profit organizations and organizations based in urban neighborhoods are starting to look at the importance of these gardens as an answer to the absence of grocery stores in their communities.

Will Allen, the 2008 winner of the MacArthur Fellows Award, is an agriculturalist, modeling for the entire country the benefits of this movement: access to healthy fruits and vegetables, practical education for youth and children, wholesome community engagement, economic developments and the mitigation, if not reversal in the prevalence of diseases in the urban centers due to high concentrations of fast food businesses and 'mom & pop' grocers and package stores that sell processed, fatty, fried foods.

"Over the last decade, Allen has expanded Growing Power’s initiatives through partnerships with local organizations and activities such as the Farm-City Market Basket Program, which provides a weekly basket of fresh produce grown by members of the Rainbow Farmer’s Cooperative to low-income urban residents at a reduced cost. The internships and workshops hosted by Growing Power engage teenagers and young adults, often minorities and immigrants, in producing healthy foods for their communities and provide intensive, hands-on training to those interested in establishing similar farming initiatives in other urban settings. Through these and other programs still in development, Allen is experimenting with new and creative ways to improve the diet and health of the urban poor."

Read more about community gardens in urban centers here.

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You can read my latest column in the Dallas Morning News here.

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