The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 found that around 1 in 3 adults are obese, 47% of Maori adults are obese and around 86% of Kiwi people are overweight. In this agricultural country, where there is 1 sheep for 4 citizens, the junk food is becoming more and more frequent and the fast food chains have been increasing their serving sizes. In response to the overweight issues, the City Council of Christchurch, biggest city in the southern island of New Zealand, developed a program called “Edible Christchurch”. The aim is to promote quality and healthy food. One of the measures of this program is supporting Community Gardens, social centers which produce food and promote self-sufficiency.
We had the opportunity to visit the Community Garden of New Brighton, a small port city in the periphery of Christchurch. There are lot of low-income families in this area, and when the City Council in 2005 understood the potential of community gardens there, people were quickly motivated to grow low cost and quality food. In this context, we met Catherine, the coordinator of this Community garden, who explained us in more details their local impacts.
The definition of a “Community Gardens” according to Canterbury Community Gardens Association is: a “social center which produces food and promote self-sufficiency. They play a vital role in communities by bringing people together and breaking down social isolation. They are also educational resources, places to develop employment related skills”. They are public structures for social purpose, coordinated by few employees of the Council and volunteers. The difference with public gardens or collective gardens is that Community Gardens are focus on the community, sharing, healthy living and social inclusiveness. They are hubs of activities where citizens can meet other members of their community and learn more about healthy food, gardening or caring the environment…
The Community Garden in New Brighton is part of the Canterbury Community Gardens Association: an organization network of 30 Community Gardens which promote new and support existing initiatives. The one is New Brighton has been running for 13 years and played an important role for many locals after the strong earthquake in 2011, by providing calm and positive place.
The Community Garden of New Brighton welcomes anyone who wants to do gardening or to do maintenance tasks in exchange for free vegetables and workshop access.
The structure has a variety of income sources: grants from local authorities, health sector, donation from local businesses and local community, charitable trusts, seeds and food products selling from the garden, workshops and school activities. These incomes are reinvested for the garden maintenance and development.
The school program led by the Community Garden is also a real success. Instead of the sport program, school students can learn how growing healthy food. Children can thus cook the fresh organic vegetables they gardened just before.
WHAT NOW ?
The Community Garden have been running really well and bring positivity and strength to the community and provide a place to share, learn and meet other local citizens. The number of volunteers is now stable and the garden is well known by all local citizens. Moreover, in response to the fast food consumption and obesity, the demand of school programs in the garden increases.
Nevertheless, others Community Gardens can face various challenges like obtaining a suitable site and necessary resources, or getting people involved and keep them active! In addition, there is a clear vandalism and theft challenges to face in some communities. Four components to setting up a Community Garden can be highlighted and can be suitable for others cities in the world: active community involvement; a suitable site; and, resources as knowledges and equipment.