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Gardening in urban areas has often been a challenge with reduced space and land being used for the built environment, however, recent years have brought urban gardening to the forefront of many minds. Many urban garden projects can be seen in low-income areas and/or underserved communities. It provides nutritious foods in an affordable way to areas that lack access, provides numerous environmental benefits, and brings communities together. Urban gardens can be a source of resilience for a community and empower them to nutritious food in areas that may be food deserts or food swamps.   


Environmental Benefits

Growing your own food significantly reduces the distance it needs to travel from farm to plate, resulting in a substantial reduction in carbon emissions associated with transportation. By cutting down on food miles, you contribute to combating climate change and promoting a more sustainable food system. According to Foodwise, the average meal in the United States travels about 1,500 miles to reach your plate. Growing your food eliminates this carbon emitted from transportation and reduces it to only a few steps away. This is beneficial in reducing carbon emissions in general, but also reducing onsite pollution from the combustion of fuel which impacts the air quality and quality of living, while also reducing costs associated with transportation.

Urban gardens also promote biodiversity. Providing areas for plants and animals helps them survive in the built environment, whether they are passing through or making a home. This can help promote biodiversity on a larger scale such as providing habitats for pollinators that pollinate throughout a city. Biodiversity is important in urban areas to help manage runoff and naturally filter pollutants from contaminating resources such as water. 

Gardens can also help reduce the urban heat island effect. A heat island is a phenomenon that occurs when the change in land use, primarily a change from natural vegetation to the built environment of cities, increases the land surface temperature. This is a result of built materials like concrete and other materials' properties to absorb and retain heat. An urban heat island can pose significant health risks, primarily for vulnerable populations who are less likely to have access to green space, with heat being the leading cause of weather-related death. Urban gardens and other green spaces in the built environment like on roofs or parks can provide shade but also reduce land surface temperatures through evapotranspiration.  


Social Benefits

According to the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, food insecurity disproportionately impacts people of racial and ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged persons. These are the same populations that are most vulnerable to climate change. Food insecurity and the lack of access to affordable and nutritious foods can lead to many health risks including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mental health disorders, and other chronic diseases.

Underserved communities are often located in food deserts or food swamps. Food deserts are areas that lack access to grocery stores that offer healthy and nutritious food options. Food swamps are areas that are oversaturated with unhealthy food options like convenience stores that sell junk food or an abundance of fast food restaurants. Urban gardens can help reduce these inequalities by providing access to affordable and nutritious foods. 

Gardening can also be a way for community members to gather and learn from each other. People can become more connected with their food when they are the ones growing it and can feel a sense of accomplishment when they enjoy the finished product. The Los Angeles Community Garden Council claims community gardens can build stronger communities, fostering a sense of ownership and becoming more invested in their community. Gardens can also be a way for people with different backgrounds to interact when they might not have previously. It is a way to share knowledge, a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose. 



Starting a community garden or an urban garden requires logistics to keep the garden alive. This can be a barrier for many underserved people or communities who lack free time and money to spend gardening. They might also lack the time to cook, making premade food an easier choice. A garden requires the management of someone knowledgeable about growing food, distributing the food, and the time to do so. 



Urban gardens do not have to be big or even community gardens. They can start small with a planter box in a window with a few fresh herbs. Starting small can often be a good place to start when first learning how to grow food and care for plants. Starting an urban garden can be a great way to help communities come together and empower them with the resources they need to live healthy lives. Reducing food miles, gathering community members together, mitigating the urban heat island effect, and providing access to healthy foods are just some of the ways that urban gardening can be advantageous.