The Multiple Benefits of Community Gardens

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In Fort Erie, Ont., newcomers and low-income families are finding hope and a better quality of life at an unexpected place—a Salvation Army community garden.

“When vulnerable people attend to their garden they find food security, friendship, purpose, belonging and more,” says Anne Watters, community and family services worker at The Salvation Army.

Community gardens have become more than a hobby or a place to grow healthy food. They now serve as classrooms where new skills such as composting and recycling are developed, gathering places to enhance socialization and cross-cultural connections, and food sources with healthy alternatives for people on a tight budget.

“Our program isn’t large,” says Watters, of the 12 4’ x 6’ plots. “But we are changing lives.”

One gardener was chronically homeless. Having her own vegetable patch gave her purpose—somewhere to go and something to do. She took pride in growing her own food and shares her produce with others in need.

Living in an apartment, a couple from Haiti missed growing their own food crops.  The community garden provided friendship and a place where they connected to their cultural roots.

People with low-incomes no longer feel trapped by poverty and food insecurity. Despite tight budgets the community garden offers nutritional food and improves health and well-being.

The community garden fostered a sense of value in a group of seniors. Teaching others gardening skills not only enhanced their self-worth, the physical activity helped them stay strong and maintain their independence.

“The community garden helps people reconnect with their communities, motivates them to make changes in their lives, and makes them happy,” says Watters. “What was once a weed-infested plot of land is giving people a lot of hope.”