ORONO, Maine — An estimated 5.3 million seniors in the United States are currently food-insecure. This vulnerable population faces many barriers to adequate food access. Community giving gardens are an emerging strategy to increase food access and offer a destigmatized solution to senior food insecurity.
In a new JAFSCD article, “Gardening for change: Community giving gardens and senior food insecurity,” authors Kathleen Tims, Mark Haggerty, John Jemison, Melissa Ladenheim, Sarah Mullis, Elizabeth Damon seek to answer questions related to rural, senior food insecurity through a case study of a long-term community giving garden project in Orono, Maine. Based on survey data and personal interviews, this study analyzed senior participation in the Orono Community Garden (OCG) program, the impact on participants’ food security status, senior participants’ and nonparticipants‘ perceptions of the giving garden, and seniors perceptions and understanding of their own food insecurity.
- The OCG program functioned to increase food access by providing weekly fresh food deliveries directly to senior households in need.
- A majority of the participating seniors indicated that the supplemental fresh produce contributed a benefit to their normal diets and gave them additional options in budgeting for food and other expenses.
- Many seniors frequently underestimated their own food vulnerability and insecurity.
- Participants viewed the Orono Community Garden program as a source of destigmatized and socially acceptable food access, in contrast to other food assistance programs.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RESEARCH
The Orono Community Garden successfully provided healthy produce to seniors reducing food insecurity in a nonstigmatizing manner. These seniors were found to commonly misrepresent their level of food insecurity. They were found to rely on a complex system of public and private food assistance programs, suggesting that the true extent of their hardship was worse than they reported. The authors acknowledge that a variety of factors contribute to participation in different assistance programs and that stigma can play a hindering role. These are issues that prompt further research when exploring future solutions to creating equitable food access and building socially just and resilient food systems.
University of Maine
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