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Open Access Publications from the University of California


  • Author(s): Butterfield, Katie Lynn Cantwell
  • Advisor(s): Valdez, Zulema
  • et al.

Low-income communities and communities of color often lack access to fresh food from large food retailers within the traditional food system. Growing public concern for these and other food inequalities across the U.S. has generated interest in alternate food outlets such as community gardens as solutions. However, recent scholarly work suggests that community gardens may be more prevalent in predominately white or higher-income communities. This research further suggests that the primary goals and ideology that drive the development of community gardens may resonate more with white higher-income participants than lower-income or racial minorities. As a result, the participants in these programs are often primarily white, high-income individuals. By using negative binomial and spatial regression techniques to examine data from New York City and Minnesota, the current research project aims to clarify to what degree communities of color and low-income communities face a lack of access to community gardens. Further, this research investigates variation in the ideology or framing associated with community gardens with different demographic profiles. Findings suggest low-income communities and communities of color do not lack access to community gardens at a higher rate than white and high-income communities. However, findings show that the goals and ideology of community gardens vary across communities with different demographics. This research develops a more nuanced understanding of the race and class-based barriers to participating in community gardens. It adds to the literature on food access by revealing the degree to which community gardens as alternative, local food programs are accessible and welcoming to low-income, black, and Latino individuals, who have historically experienced barriers to accessing healthy food. Findings suggest that more work could be done to ensure accessibility to community gardens in less educated communities, and that gardens in more diverse communities could focus more on the benefits valued by black Americans and Latinos to ensure these groups feel welcome in the gardens.

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