Growing a Healthy Community: Families Building Sustainable Gardens and Community Spaces

Growing a Healthy Community: Families Building Sustainable Gardens and Community Spaces

Director/PI: Co-Principal Investigators Joyce Duckles, researcher and associate professor of human development at the Warner School, and George Moses, executive director at NEAD, Inc.

The purpose of this study is to work along with parents, grandparents and others who live and work in the Beechwood neighborhood in Rochester, N.Y. to understand and document the co-construction of spaces to grow food, develop a business, and build a community.

Collaborators: North East Area Development, Inc. (NEAD) and the Freedom Market

Funding: University of Rochester’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Community-Based Participatory Research Pipeline-to-Pilot Award).

The diverse and intergenerational research team examines the impacts of local community practices and initiatives that support food well-being and the active co-construction of community gardens and gathering spaces through the Freedom Market and the Beechwood Greenhouse Collaborative and across the Beechwood community. Members of the research team look more closely at how families access food in the Beechwood neighborhood, what it means to a neighborhood to have access to fresh produce, and how community members co-construct spaces that support health and sustainable change. Led by co-principal investigators Joyce Duckles and George Moses, with support from ENGOAL (Engaging Older Adult Learners as Health Researchers) graduates Pamela Lennon-Blythers and Vernice Murphy who are now members of Sankofa Communiversity, Thando Hannah, a community researcher and Sankofa Communiversity member, and graduate students Silvia Caraballo and Brandi Hayes, the study builds on past work and current understandings of challenges to food well-being. Participants are customers of The Freedom Market, residents of the Beechwood neighborhood, and/or attendees at community meetings or events.
The research team has conducted 81 surveys and 15 interviews. Surveys provide insights into the strengths and challenges of the community members around accessing healthy food, perceptions of health and well-being, and issues of food security. Surveys indicate that 83 percent of respondents report total household incomes below $30K per year, with average households of four adults and children. Within this neighborhood, 79 percent of residents rent their apartment or home, 10 percent are staying with family or friends, and 9 percent own homes. Food insecurity is experienced by many, with 60 percent of residents reporting challenges in stretching food budgets at the end of the month, and 46 percent stating that they cut the size of their meals or skip meals because there is not enough money for food. Initial analysis of the team’s data has also provided insights into the goals of families to eat nutritious and fresh foods, the strategies they adopt to “find support for food in all different places,” and the many ways they support one another.

Tags: ENGOAL, Joyce Duckles