Community garden spaces are good for health
Beginning in 2022, NKCDC will build and program six to eight new community garden spaces along Kensington and Indiana Avenues in Kensington.
These community gardens, supported by Rite Aid Healthy Futures, aim to improve health outcomes for children and families and increase sustainable land sovereignty and food production in the area.
NKCDC has immediate access to program six sites—three of our own properties and three in public parks owned by the City of Philadelphia. For the remaining sites, NKCDC will support four to six residents to build garden infrastructure and programming on side yard properties that we help them acquire through the Philadelphia Land Bank, with the assistance of Neighborhood Gardens Trust.
NKCDC will build the infrastructure—including fences and planters—in a participatory community build event during a single day. Our Open Space Management team will prepare each site and materials in the winter in preparation for build days in early spring.
Programming at the sites will leverage resources and staff from existing programs that serve children. Assets include:
- Meal kits and emergency food assistance. Nourish is an NKCDC program that teaches families how to cook healthy and nutritious meals using local produce and groceries available at local corner stores.
- Fresh produce. Program participants will be able to take garden produce home with them. Additional produce will supplement emergency food assistance programs and Nourish meal kits.
- Gardening skills. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society provides training and resources for residents starting community gardens in community spaces or at home.
- Medical care. With partnerships forged through Together for North Philadelphia, we will be able to connect families to primary medical care through area health systems.
- Tools for mental health. All program participants will be trained in the Connected Community: Trauma Informed Community Engagement Toolkit designed by Kensington residents, NKCDC, and Impact Services.
- Violence prevention. By partnering with Temple University we will integrate the CURE Violence model into the target areas to promote safe passage for children and families to use the gardens.
- Additional health resources. NKCDC’s team of community health workers connects residents to resources for housing, employment, education, transportation, translation, childcare, medical care, and other social determinants of health.
Connected Programs and Partnerships
Fresh produce, meal kits, and emergency food assistance
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Training and resources for community gardeners
Trauma-informed community engagement toolkit
Community Health Workers
Connecting residents to health resources
Neighborhood Gardens Trust
A leader in urban land preservation, based in Philadelphia
Temple University Center for Urban Bioethics
Using the CURE Violence model to improve community safety
Community Garden Maintenance
Each garden will be maintained by a team of PowerCorps or Roots to Reentry staff—Philadelphia programs that support returning citizens and disconnected youth in on-the-job learning. Those teams will be supported by a stewardship team that includes a compensated resident sponsor and an NKCDC Community Connector. The resident sponsors and Community Connectors will also identify and build partnerships with organizations and businesses that can bring young people and families to each garden space, including local libraries, daycare centers, churches, schools, Philadelphia Playstreets and playgrounds, and youth programs.
“By increasing food access, nutrition education and access to critical resources, this project will result in improved health for hundreds of young people, families and our neighborhood at large,” said Bill McKinney, Executive Director at NKCDC. “Additionally, it’s another opportunity to collaborate with violence-reduction programs to create safe passages in a neighborhood that has seen more violence than any other part of the city,” McKinney said.
What’s so great about community gardens?
Kensington ranked last of 46 Philadelphia neighborhoods in health factors and outcomes, according to a 2019 study by the City of Philadelphia and Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University. Men living in Kensington can expect to die 18 years earlier than men living six El stops away in Center City.
Improving environmental factors, including access to healthy food, green space, and safe outdoor activities, improves mental and physical health. Trees and gardens physically cool urban neighborhoods, reducing mortality rates during heat waves. Gardens also can make significant reductions in violent crime, including gun violence.