Health Wealth of Community Gardening

(As featured in The Telegram on Monday, July 4th 2011)

A community garden is essentially a garden planted, and used by group of people. They are often set up in suburban neighbourhoods, rural areas, schools, community centres, or simply on a piece of land that is suitable for a gardening plot. Gardens are usually operated in one of two ways. As a shared garden space that serves everyone in a particular community, or separate garden plots individually owned and operated by community members. You probably already knew what a community garden is, but what you likely don't already know is that gardens are located across our island and there are roughly ten here in the city of St. John's. This is great news for us city dwellers. There are so many benefits to partaking in a community garden, and specifically for St. John's, we have many options and locations to choose from!

Community gardens have a wide spectrum of benefits, which in fact make them suitable for just about anyone really. They can be ideal for individuals who live in apartments or homes that don't provide enough space for personal gardens. Gardens can be a great way to teach kids about where our food comes from, while participating in a summer fun family activity outside. They can also work well for those looking to socialize, meet new people and learn new things. Undoubtedly it's perfect for individuals wanting to improve the environment and their health simultaneously. Partaking in a garden can help people looking to increase physical activity levels and eat healthfully. Last but certainly not least, it can aid those looking to save a few dollars on their next grocery bill. I think it's safe there is something in a community garden for anyone and everyone to benefit from.

Nutritionally speaking, community gardens can be a significant source of food and wealth for members. By participating you have access to safe, and nutritious food which simply alone can help to support health, overall well-being, and decreases susceptibility to disease. Getting outside to garden during the summer is also a way for our bodies to produce the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D. We can get vitamin D from things like milk, margarine, eggs, fish and liver, but summer is really the only time of year in Newfoundland where there is enough sunlight (usually!) that our skin can produce enough of this essential nutrient which upwards of a billion people worldwide are deficient in.

Besides obvious mental benefits, studies have actually shown physically benefits of community gardens including decreased rates of asthma and stress, and improved immunity in those participating. Gardening is also a great way to get in some physical activity time too. All that digging, weeding, planting, and lifting soil or compost is considered a light to moderate form of exercise right along with brisk walking, or playing a sport like basketball. Quite recently our federal government released a report stating an extra fifteen minutes of physical activity a day could prevent a significant amount of obesity across our country. We all know that eating well is important for our health, and about ten to fifteen minutes of daily sun exposure can usually produce enough of the sunshine vitamin we tend to lack. It makes you wonder. Perhaps fifteen minutes of gardening daily might someday replace the old adage 'an apple a day.'

If you are looking for more information about community gardens, including where they are and how you can get involved contact The Food Security Network at 237.4026 or info@foodsecuritynews.com.