The Perceptions of Community Gardeners at Jones Valley Urban Farm and the Implications for Dietary Interventions

By Northrop, Matthew D.; Wingo, Brooks C. et al. | The Qualitative Report, July 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Perceptions of Community Gardeners at Jones Valley Urban Farm and the Implications for Dietary Interventions


Northrop, Matthew D., Wingo, Brooks C., Ard, Jamy D., The Qualitative Report


Introduction

In recent years, community gardening has become a research interest because of its potential as a health intervention. Although published research investigating the efficacy of community gardening in this capacity is relatively scarce, several recent studies suggest it may have promise. A survey of upstate New York community garden coordinators reported that in addition to issues such as community empowerment and development, health issues ranked as the most common reasons for gardener participation (Armstrong, 2000). A study investigating community gardeners in Toronto provided similar results; in focus groups and individual interviews, community gardeners perceived such programs as providing health benefits (Wakefield, Yeudall, Taron, Reynolds, & Skinner, 2007).

One specific way community gardening may impact the overall health of participants is through diet, particularly its effects on fruit and vegetable consumption. Several studies have suggested that community gardening may increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and improved nutrition (Armstrong, 2000; Wakefield et al., 2007). Additionally, one study suggested that Flint, Michigan residents with a household member who participated in a community garden were 3.5 times more likely to consume five vegetables per day than those who did not have a family member participating in a community garden (Alaimo, Packnett, Miles, & Kruger, 2008).

A substantial body of research suggests an increase in fruit and vegetable intake may be important for several reasons. Some research suggests that an increased intake of such foods may help prevent and treat several diseases and risk factors. An analysis of approximately 200 studies showed a statistically significant relationship between increased vegetable intake and a protective effect for a variety of cancers (Block, Patterson, & Subar, 1992). There is also evidence that increased fruit and vegetable intake may help prevent cardiovascular disease (Ness & Powles, 1997). Additionally, an analysis of several clinical intervention studies suggested that advising an increase in fruit and vegetable intake, when coupled with advice on decreasing energy intake, could be an effective form of weight management (Rolls, Ello-Martin, & Tohill, 2004). Increased fruit and vegetable intake may be especially important given the increase in obesity over the past two decades among the US population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1985-2007) and its spectrum of known health consequences (National Institutes of Health & National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Obesity Education Initiative, 1998).

With these issues in mind, the purpose of this study was to investigate two principal matters. Firstly, this study was intended to examine the reasons gardeners participate in the Gardens of Park Place community garden at Jones Valley Urban Farm in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, and whether these reasons were similar or dissimilar to reasons for community gardener participation in programs already studied elsewhere in North America. Secondly, this study was intended to explore the perceived impacts community gardening has on gardeners' overall health, community, and particularly, diet.

This research is significant for several reasons. As mentioned earlier, published articles regarding the perceived health benefits of community gardening--especially its effects on fruit and vegetable intake--are scant. Secondly, studies of community gardening have been conducted in locations such as Toronto, upstate New York and Flint, Michigan, but to the best of our knowledge none have looked at an urban community garden in the southeastern United States. Finally, only a few of the aforementioned studies address the dietary effects of community gardening.

Methods

Jones Valley Urban Farm and the Gardens of Park Place

In order to best understand the context of this study and the people involved, it is necessary to understand the Gardens of Park Place within the framework of its parent organization, Jones Valley Urban Farm. …

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