Diversity and engagement in alternative food practice : community gardens in Vancouver, British Columbia

Darlene Seto
2011
Community gardens are experiencing a popular resurgence. Across North America, there is growing support for more sustainable food production and consumption practices distinct from the conventional or industrialized food system. Despite increasing popularity, these alternative food practices have been criticized as non-inclusive, catering to privileged segments of the population. This research investigates the criticism of non-inclusion by examining participant diversity in community gardens
more » ... ommunity gardens within the City of Vancouver, British Columbia. Multiple elements of demographic diversity are considered, including age, gender, and income, although there is particular emphasis on racial and ethnic background. Overall, results from 12 semi-structured interviews and a survey of 192 community garden members reveal significant demographic differences between garden participants and the general public. In particular, visible minority, non-English language speaking, lower-income, and lower-educational status individuals were disproportionately under-represented among the garden participants surveyed. Demographic variations in participants' gardening motivations were also found; lower income participants placed a much higher level of importance on using their garden to save on food cost, as opposed to high income participants. Despite such differences, the majority of participants report a high sense of community and satisfaction in their community garden, suggesting feelings of inclusion, at least among garden members. Based upon these results, it is recommended that the City of Vancouver should continue to support community gardens, but revise garden policy priorities to encourage wider participation among visible minority members, as well as better enable low-income populations to meet food security needs.
doi:10.14288/1.0072485 fatcat:hb6hbgckl5hwbhgvfix5cpspna