Growing Access to Fresh, Healthy Food

July 29, 2015


ince its debut in 2011, the Cities of Service “Let’s Grow” service strategy – a blueprint for City Halls to engage residents and volunteers in the development and maintenance of community gardens – has helped several mayors to improve access to fresh and healthy food in neighborhoods where grocery stores and other access to good produce often are scarce. Lower-income communities establish fruit and vegetable gardens in partnership with local organizations and support from volunteers, with mayors driving the efforts to address food insecurity, hunger and poor nutrition. Across the Cities of Service coalition, cities implementing “Let’s Grow” have harvested and distributed thousands of pounds of fresh produce, and counting.

Grow-N-Indy is the community gardening initiative under Indianapolis’s Mayor Greg Ballard’s Front Porch Alliance. The program began in 2013 and both increases residents’ access to nutritious food and encourages activities that bring neighbors together. Through Grow-N-Indy volunteers and residents are supported to create community gardens, connect with master gardeners, and engage local businesses and organizations. More than 28 gardens donate an average of 3,500 pounds of produce annually to local food pantries, and according to Front Porch Alliance Director Douglas Hairston, the number of gardens nearly doubled in two years and have changed the way Indianapolis citizens engage with their community.

 “The program shows our youth what can be done in their community through volunteer efforts, and encourages them to step up and get involved in greater numbers,” he said. “Indianapolis is seeing urban agriculture thrive with great volunteers who are building a community and providing a valuable resource.”

Other cities that have seeded success with “Let’s Grow” include:

Kansas City, Kansas – where Mayor Mark Holland’s office partnered with Community Housing of Wyandotte County to build and manage more than 3,600 square feet of community gardens in lower-income neighborhoods, and to recruit residents and volunteers to support them.

Orlando, Fla. – A subprogram of Orlando Cares, the city’s service strategy, “The Garden” has used impact volunteering to lead youth at six city community centers through explorations in gardening, nutrition, and agriculture, including hands-on, teamwork efforts to maintain an outdoor garden plot, indoor hydroponic gardening and personal herb container gardens. The Garden presents the added benefit of helping upper-elementary age students develop life skills for future success, and can help to reduce juvenile crime by engaging youth after school.

Phoenix, Ariz. – Through its Let’s Grow Phoenix Gardens initiative, Mayor Greg Stanton and team have inspired and supported residents and volunteers to provide hundreds of residents and families in at least three public-housing complexes with direct access to thousands of pounds of fresh, healthy food.