In an effort to accelerate community garden initiatives and boost local efforts to build healthier neighborhoods, California’s State Nutrition Action Council (SNAC) has developed a comprehensive suite of free materials offering relevant resources, success stories, and concrete action items to support advocates and community leaders in the development of these gardens.
“Few other public health interventions have the transformative potential of community gardens,” says SNAC member and Program and Policy Analyst Andra Nicoli of CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California. “These spaces can help dismantle discriminatory zoning practices, alleviate food deserts, and offer equitable access to nature and programming opportunities. Equity really drives this work.”
The materials offer robust policy guidance and technical assistance to local leaders interested in creating and sustaining community gardens across California. SNAC is a broad collaboration of the major state agencies and nonprofits that implement U.S. Department of Agriculture food and nutrition education programs. In selecting their annual initiative, SNAC members identified community gardens as a particularly powerful model to foster community wellness.
Residents and local leaders often find the policies and systems governing community gardens to be complex and challenging to navigate. “Policy is a major stumbling block. It demands specialized knowledge to create—not to mention sustain—a community garden,” says Adrienne Markworth, a SNAC member and executive director of Leah’s Pantry. “We hope these materials make it so anyone can launch a community garden if they are willing to do the work and rally the community.”
Pooling their community engagement and nutrition education expertise, SNAC members developed three key tools to help advocates overcome these obstacles. The first, a concise Fact Sheet, introduces local decision-makers to the immense proven benefits of community gardens at the individual, environmental, and community levels.
An Issue Brief discusses the role of local and state laws and policies in governing community gardens, including zoning, land use, and produce sales. An extensive Planning Guide offers concrete solutions, detailing key considerations for creating and sustaining resilient community gardens. In concert, the tools help community leaders and gardening advocates cut through red tape, select proven policy models, and deliver health benefits to residents living in areas that have historically been underserved.
A newly developed SNAC Community Gardens Initiative webpage houses these tools. Those with specific inquiries can email CaliforniaSNAC@dss.ca.gov for technical assistance. Updated regularly, the site is a living resource for community garden champions.
Get growing with the SNAC Community Gardens Initiative.
The California State Nutrition Action Council is a state-level collaborative with active representation from all state agencies and nonprofits that implement U.S. Department of Agriculture programs. Together, the SNAC partnering organizations reach underserved people throughout their life span, providing food benefits, nutrition education, healthy community changes, and obesity prevention services to reduce food insecurity and improve the quality of life of Californians. Members include the California Department of Social Services; Catholic Charities of California; the California Department of Aging; the California Department of Education; the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Office of Farm to Fork; the California Department of Public Health – Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention; the California Department of Public Health – Women, Infants & Children Program; Leah’s Pantry; the Public Health Institute’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition; CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California; and the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
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