Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Isles Community Gardens and Nutrition Education

Name: Isles Community Gardens and Nutrition Education

Location: Trenton, NJ

Years: 1981- Present

Founded by: Student and Faculty of Princeton University

With 35 community gardens and 10 school gardens established on brownsites, unused lots, Isles brings the community together and provide them with fresh produce they might otherwise have difficulty getting or lack of inclination to purchase. Isles’ Community Gardening and Nutrition Education initiative fosters self-reliance and goes beyond emergency food assistance by providing residents with the skills to grow their own food and improve their nutrition. In 2008, more than 30 community gardens that Isles supports in Trenton raised thousands pounds of fresh produce that improved diets and strengthened finances for more than 3,000 residents. Many gardeners either can or freeze their produce; they also donate to members of their families and neighbors.

Isles has created their urban gardens with the intention that they Improve nutrition and health by providing exercise and fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. Yet they have also proved that urban gardens save families hundreds of dollars per year. Low-income Trenton residents face significant barriers to healthy nutrition and food security. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 21% of Trenton’s population live below the poverty level. As a result of such poverty, more than 60% of Trenton school district students (Pre-K to 12) are eligible for free and reduced lunch. In addition, according to a recent Community Food Assessment completed by Rutgers University, there are challenges related to education and eating behaviors that contribute to poor nutrition; few people surveyed were concerned about eating healthy and many either did not know how to cook or preferred to eat pre-prepared meals.

During Trenton’s long growing season, an 800-square-foot plot can provide enough vegetables to feed a family for an entire year. By participating in Isles’ Community Gardening and Nutrition Education initiative, low-income families are able to gain greater food security, stretch food budgets and obtain fresh and nutritious produce. Studies report that every $1 invested in a community garden plot yields approximately $6 worth of vegetables. In a 2006 survey, Isles’ community gardeners reported an average savings of about $200 dollars per year, per gardener. This program strengthens the community by enhancing connections between people, making the streets more secure, and giving people a chance to share food with others. Over 70% of Isles’ gardeners report that gardening greatly improves their neighborhoods. Lastly, Isles’ urban gardens clean the environment by improving soil and growing plants that filter the air.


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