Study Highlights Need for Community Food-Growing Spaces in Philadelphia
October 24, 2022
New research led by Ashley B. Gripper, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the department of Community Health and Prevention and The Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health, highlights potential community based solutions to food apartheid.
In the publication, researchers provide historical context and a descriptive epidemiological analysis of community food-growing spaces and neighborhood demographics in Philadelphia.
"This research...helps us understand the landscape of community gardens and urban farms in Philly, and begins to uncover potential mechanisms of how collective agency and community resistance might manifest in Black and low-income communities," - Author Ashley B. Gripper, PhD, MPH
Due to centuries of racist policies and practices, Black and low-income neighborhoods tend to have fewer convenient options for securing affordable produce and nutrient-rich foods. This restricted access can lead to higher prevalence of diet-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
To reduce barriers to food access, many members of Black and low-income neighborhoods have opened community gardens and urban farms, a movement that has a long and rich history in the region.
The study notes, “Given the realities of food access, many members within Black communities grow food as a strategy of resistance to food apartheid, and for the healing and self-determination that agriculture offers.”
In the Philadelphia region, Black communities have long resisted food injustice. When Black individuals migrated north due to white terrorism, Jim Crow laws, and state-sanctioned land theft, they brought their heritage of food growing along with them.
As the 2000s approached, the city’s support of agricultural projects decreased as the first waves of gentrification affected working class African American neighborhoods.
Using existing data on community food-growing locations in large U.S. cities and spatial analysis techniques, researchers found that Philadelphia neighborhoods with higher populations of Black people and neighborhoods with lower incomes, generally tend to have more community food-growing spaces.
“This research, echoing much of what Philly's urban agricultural communities have said for decades, helps us understand the landscape of community gardens and urban farms in Philly, and begins to uncover potential mechanisms of how collective agency and community resistance might manifest in Black and low-income communities,” said Gripper.
In conclusion, increasing access to urban agriculture may help strengthen communities and positively impact mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. This may also be an effective strategy for cities to become more self-reliant by employing sustainable food sources. Authors suggest that the Philadelphia City Council should support and implement the city’s soon-to-be released Urban Agriculture Plan.
This research, "Community solutions to food apartheid: A spatial analysis of community food-growing spaces and neighborhood demographics in Philadelphia” was published in Social Science & Medicine Vol. 310 in October 2022.