Gardens 4 Humanity

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Tompkins Weekly April 25, 2011. By Joshua Dolan.

Symptoms of the global food crisis including malnutrition, childhood obesity and diabetes are most prevalent in poor communities. Gardens 4 Humanity (G4H) is a community-driven organization addressing issues of food access, community health and neighborhood empowerment through support of urban gardens and gardeners in the Ithaca areas mixed and low income neighborhoods. We use education to promote self reliance around food production and healthy eating. When people reclaim their ability to provide healthy food for themselves, they have a foundation on which to build just and resilient communities. We are linked to urban agriculture programs around the country that are generating green jobs growing food in food deserts and we hold this as strong priority.


G4H arose in 2008 when Southside resident Marie Hall decided to revive Victory Gardens to address the needs of her community. Building on a small pool of funds granted through a Robert Smith, community educators at Cooperative Extension in agriculture and Family and Community Development have guided this project which has since grown into a robust coalition including community members from a variety of organizations, backgrounds and skills.


Collaborations with diverse organizations include Ithaca Housing Authority, Southside Community Center and GIAC among others and we have helped give birth to new initiatives like Ithaca Community Harvest which runs BJM’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Snack Program, Congo Square Market at Southside and the Youth Farm Project at Three Swallows, a partnership with the Full Plate Farm Collective. We are working to expand partnerships over the coming year to include more faith based groups, civic organizations, governmental and human services agencies. We recognize the hundreds of volunteers and those working through other partnering agencies who are putting in the hours to help make our vision for a just food system a reality.


Our main objectives include outreach and assistance in low-income neighborhoods to establish successful food gardens that supplement tight food budgets and improve dietary intake. We have assisted in the establishment of food gardens at three public housing sites and others at schools, community centers and churches. We are at the forefront of the development of training opportunities for volunteers, educators and concerned citizens interested in assisting educational and public gardening programs. Our training emphasizes food justice by developing skills associated with work in ethnically and economically diverse groups. We work with school and afterschool programs to provide education about the food system and food growing skills fostering the next generation of young leaders.


When we set out to address food security issues in our community, there was high interest in the creation of community gardens in downtown neighborhoods, however we found barriers to engaging with low income residents. We have come to realize through community feedback and observation that no movement to address food insecurity and chronic disease will be successful without addressing economic justice issues. We plan to move on this front through creative fundraising efforts to create jobs for our allies in these communities. With the continuing Federal budget crisis looming, we realize that dwindling government funding can only go so far. Our communities must be given the tools to create their own destiny including jobs and the tools to create food based cooperative enterprises.


You can help us achieve our goals. Get involved on April 30 from 10-4pm when we host our first annual All-City Work Day at sites across the community. We are also holding a fundraiser for Gardens4Humanity and Groundswell at Castaways on May 7th from 6pm – 1am featuring local hip-hop, funk, R&B and African music. You can also sign up for this fall’s G4H Training via CCE’s website. For more information, please visit www.ccetompkins/g4h.


Joshua Dolan is the Community Gardens Coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.







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