Community Learning Garden Programs in the Portland Area: How do Learning Gardens help low‐income families access fresh locally‐grown foods?
Community learning garden programs help families grow and prepare their own food. The skills and knowledge gained from these programs can help families access more fresh locally-grown foods. However, locally-grown foods are often perceived to be too expensive for low-income families. Economic barriers such as transportation and access to convenient food sources and the perceived high cost of fresh foods limit the amount of fresh foods available to low-income families and individuals. This study was designed to analyze how participation in community learning garden programs helps increase lowincome families access to organic and/or fresh locally-grown foods. Although the preliminary sample findings are relatively small, key trends and findings identified can be used for further research.
The community partner selected for the study was the Oregon Food Bank’s (OFB) Seed to Supper learning garden program. The OFB learning garden programs “address the root causes of hunger through increased nutrition, self-reliance and community food security (Learning Gardens, n.d. para.1).” An analysis of OFB survey results helped assess the effectiveness of the Seed to Supper program and the impact the program has on food security for targeted populations. In addition, participants from the program were interviewed to document qualitative outcomes of the program. The interview and survey process clarified how much fresh produce the participants grew and where and how much produce they purchased. Two Seed to Supper instructors and two key community members were interviewed as well to gain valuable insight from their perspectives about the program. The suggestions and recommendations in this study offer many creative and practical solutions to help alleviate food insecurity.
Faculty Mentor: Lisa Weasel