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Food For Thought: The Social Impact of Community Gardens in the Greater Cleveland Area

  • Author(s): Flachs, Andrew
  • et al.
Abstract

While the benefits of healthy eating and greenspace development have been well documented, the social impact of urban and community gardens remain less studied. This paper explores the social and cultural effects of urban gardening in the greater Cleveland area. Gardening is shown to have a multitude of motivating factors, including economic, environmental, political, social, and nutritional. While analyzing the impact that gardens have on community building, identity, and food security, some authors claim that the gardeners themselves are preoccupied with the economic impact of their actions. Perversely, this leads readers to the conclusion that poor people or people of color are only interested in gardening for its dollar value. Following this argument, more affluent gardeners have the security to ignore the economic impact and focus only on furthering an environmentalist agenda. Such authors presume that utilitarian function and environmentalist ideology are mutually exclusive, but my own fieldwork showed that many gardeners actively combine these ideas. This paper intends to convey the complexity of use, function, and intent in these communal spaces, filling an existing gap in our understanding of their social impact.

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