Opinion: Community gardens are solution to BloNo’s food desert

By Farah Bassyouni Apr 14, 2023

Now that spring is finally upon us, citizens of Bloomington-Normal can spend more time outside. For those who have a green thumb but no garden at home, there is an excellent way to still get outside: community gardens. In a town like Bloomington-Normal that suffers from food insecurity, community gardens can provide fresh food to families that lack access to nutritious diet, while also providing a sense of community among participants. In the face of such social and environmental issues, community gardens might be the key to turning things around.

In a food desert such as Bloomington-Normal, fresh produce is difficult to access or outrageously expensive. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a “food desert” is a region that has a large low income population, inadequate public transportation, and a limited number of grocery stores within the vicinity. These areas make it incredibly difficult to purchase fresh produce or even reach it without owning a car. When community gardens are placed in these food deserts, they work towards growing and donating fresh produce for anyone in the community to access as much as they need. 

Apart from feeding the community, the gardens also bring those affected by the food desert closer together. Since the impact of the community garden is so meaningful, the garden becomes a social space for participants to interact and see change happen in their hometown. By working together towards a goal that benefits others’ well-being, it becomes not just a selfless act of paying it forward, but also a positive impact on their own well-being. 

On top of all of that, community gardens are beneficial to the environment. By buying meats, dairy products and fresh produce at big grocery stores, it only encourages the giant industrial agriculture industry that is hurting our planet. Instead, when you grow your own food at a community garden, you’re minimizing your carbon footprint and actively creating less waste. 

We’re already seeing community gardens emerge in a side of town that relies on them. In 2015, locals Colleen Connelly and her mother, Jan Turner, created the West Bloomington Active Garden. This community garden provides for a very low income area where the nearest grocery store is anywhere from one to twenty miles away. They grow a variety of fruit trees and vegetables and even offer smaller cuttings of plants for patrons to take home and plant in their own gardens. Such organizations are one of many trying to bring aid to an area that is disproportionately affected by the food desert. 

Another organization that joins the cause to combat food insecurity is IWU’s own Peace Garden. The Peace Garden is run by students and faculty and works closely with organizations like the West Bloomington Revitalization Project. According to their website, the produce is either sold or donated to the community, with all proceeds from sales going directly towards fighting hunger. 

Community gardens have the potential to combat not only systematic issues but also benefit the environment simultaneously.

Related Post