Community Gardening in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods in Phoenix, Arizona: Aligning Programs with Perceptions
This study examined a struggling community gardening program in a low-income minority community in Phoenix, Arizona. The gardening program exists within a larger local food initiative organized by a nonprofit community development organization. The nonprofit’s goals for the community gardening program are to provide residents with opportunities for education, extra income and socializing. In partnership with the nonprofit and local residents, we undertook a study to determine the potential for increasing the recruitment and retention of local gardeners in order to sustain a successful community gardening program. We used interviews and participant observation to create an exploratory survey that measured residents’ perceptions of benefits and burdens associated with gardening. Results revealed that while respondents had a level of gardening interest and experience in the community, they also lacked awareness about the gardening program. Perceptions of the benefits and burdens of gardening varied among current gardeners, ex-gardeners, and people who had never gardened. The benefits of gardening suggested by many residents differed from the local food initiative goals. If community gardens and local food initiatives are to succeed, organizers should align their programs with the desires of neighborhood residents and educate them about a wide range of potential benefits of gardening to both individuals and neighborhoods.
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