There are plenty of things that you know can improve your health, like waking up early and hitting the pool for a swim, or heading to the park after work for a jog, or trading butter in for some avocado in your favorite baked goods. But one thing you may not have realized helps you stay on top of your health? Joining a community garden.
It’s simple, really. In addition to keeping you active (the physical work that goes into keeping up a garden can be serious business), studies have shown that being part of a community garden can increase your vegetable and fruit consumption pretty significantly. One study, for example, looked at a group of families in North Carolina who participated in a seven-week workshop learning to garden, cook, and monitor their own nutrition. Each family worked at a community garden during that time, and by the end of the seven weeks, 17 percent of overweight participants were found to have a reduced BMI. In another study, it was found that an after-school gardening and cooking program helped increase fruit and veggie consumption in all – yes, all – of the Los Angeles-based students participating.
Although community gardening is certainly beneficial for all ranges of the population, all of these effects are even more evident when it comes to kids.
An estimated 6.5 million American children live in food-insecure areas, or food deserts, where fruits and vegetables are hard to come by – especially those that haven’t been covered in pesticides. A community garden offers a great opportunity for the kids to not only learn about where their food comes from (as in, beyond the produce section of their grocery store), but also to take an active part in creating a healthier fruit and vegetable supply. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that kids who got to participate in gardening initiatives at school often show upward levels of physical activity compared to students who spend most of their time in the classroom.
Even looking past the (undeniable, if we do say so ourselves) statistical evidence of the benefits of gardening, there are a ton of reasons to consider taking it up yourself. From clearing your mind by spending more time outside to taking a break from technology, the payoffs of taking up gardening are prolific, to say the least. Add a community garden to the mix, and you get the added benefit of meeting new people and spending time with others who share your passion for wellness.
Plus, let’s be honest: there’s no question that dinner always tastes better when you know you had to work for it, and even more so when you were the one wrenching it out of the ground this morning.