by Prof. Ashlie Delshad, WCU, summarizing her research on the topic. Photo: WCU’s South Campus garden.
My findings indicate and reinforce conclusions from prior studies that community gardens offer a myriad of benefits to the communities in which they exist. These benefits include: connecting neighbors and bridging social divides; helping individuals save money on groceries and improve the desirability of their community; and increasing access to fresh produce and improving the physical and mental health of residents.
As communities continue to grapple with the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, future pandemics, and other health or economic crises, gardens can serve as a safe haven – alleviating some of the social isolation, economic instability, food insecurity, stress and anxiety exacerbated by this public health crisis.
The social interaction facilitated by community gardening can easily take place while adhering to pandemic public health precautions, including social distancing and wearing masks, and it is inherently a safer activity as it takes place outdoors. Hence, individuals suffering the side effects of pandemic-derived social isolation can reap the social benefits of community gardening while behaving responsibly.
Social isolation due to COVID-19 coupled with financial pressures and worries about one’s health has led to an alarming uptick in mental health crises for many. The mental health benefits of community gardening can serve as a coping mechanism and outlet for folks to alleviate some of their woes.
Growing even a portion of one’s own produce through a community garden plot can also yield important economic savings to individuals, making it possible for more people to eat more healthy and varied diets.