Urban Agriculture

Today's post is authored by Food Disparities Project Group Chair, Dania Baraka.

Most of us come from the typical suburban setting: colonial house, two car garage, the white picket fence, and of course a beautiful, lush green backyard. Backyards do a lot for a family. Come the warmer months, the backyard is the place to be. Pool parties, get-togethers, a pick-up game of soccer are all wonderful activities done in backyards. With this being said however, there is much that can be done outside of the scope of leisure time. Many people use their backyards as a means of growing fresh fruits and vegetables, alongside the occasional hydrangea. It is safe to say that most families with backyards have at one point or another put their gardening skills to the test. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a rewarding and relaxing pastime that many of us take up in the luxuries of our backyards. But what about those who really need the access fresh fruits and vegetables? Can they too, just as easily plant and grow their own food? Not necessarily.

Limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables is a problem normally confined to urban inner cities, such as the city of Detroit. The areas that could really benefit from growing their own food are also the ones with least access to land to grow food. So, if people with the most accessible access to grocers are also the same people with more room for gardening projects, what is an inner city family supposed to do? Enter in the rapidly expanding and innovative field of urban agriculture, the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Urban agriculture greens a city, repurposes vacant land, brings together a community, and gives families fresh fruits and vegetables of their own. Community gardens (a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people) are a viable and inexpensive way to plant fruits and vegetables for your family. In fact, a Flint, Michigan study found that those participating in community gardens consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day and were 3.5 times more likely to consume fruits or vegetables at least 5 times daily.

Urban agriculture is more than just giving food to families with food insecurities. It tackles head on the problems that plague inner city dwellers –it attacks racial, gender, and class disparities, as these groups are most often the ones dealing with food insecurities. Food disparities in urban settings will never get better until the roots of food systems are torn apart and really examined – power, privilege, poverty, and discrimination. Urban agriculture may just be looked as one solution to give families access to fresh produce but it can also really make a difference in solving the roots of food disparities. Growing more food will not solve the problems of food systems in inner cities, but it is a start in fighting the injustice of these food systems and makes a world of difference for those who take it up, not just for the sake of their own health, but for abolishing the food disparities that target certain groups.

Urban agriculture is growing in Detroit as shown here at Lafayette Greens.

Urban agriculture is growing in Detroit as shown here at Lafayette Greens.

To combat this issue, the City of Detroit is investing $15 million in renovating Detroit's lower East-side into a hub of greenhouses, urban gardens, and health eating. Learn more about it here. 

You can also learn more about Urban Agriculture through this video about, "The Urban agriculture revolution."