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Tending to a community garden may foster higher fruit and vegetable consumption

August 05, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Those who work in community gardens eat more fruits and vegetables than those who tend home gardens, a study finds
Those who work in community gardens eat more fruits and vegetables than… (Photo credit: Southern…)

People who grow their own fruits and vegetables are apt to eat them, but a study finds that community gardeners may have an edge over home gardeners when it comes to consuming more fresh produce.

A study in this month's issue of the American Journal of Public Health surveyed 436 adult men and women in Denver over the course of a year about their gardening habits and how they felt about the community in which they lived. They were also quizzed about how many fruits and vegetables they ate per day and regular physical activity.

A little more than half of people (57%) said they gardened, but more did it at home (48%) than in community gardens (9%).

But 56% of those community gardeners ate fruits and vegetables at least five times a day, versus 37% of people who tended to their flora at home and 25% of nongardenders. Eating more fruits and vegetables was also linked with being more socially involved and having a higher opinion of neighborhood aesthetics.

There could be value in those community gardens, beyond what the backyard has to offer, such as camaraderie and feeling more attached to one's neighborhood. "The array of qualities intrinsic to community gardens makes them a unique environmental and social intervention that can narrow the divide between people and the places where food is grown," the authors wrote, "and increase local opportunities to eat better."

They suggested health officials and policy makers offer community gardens throughout communities and make them permanent open space, support programs that connect community gardens to the local food-related groups such as food banks and farmer's markets, and create zoning codes that protect the gardens.

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