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Let it grow: urban gardens and food access in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Luke, Katherine (2014) Let it grow: urban gardens and food access in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Community gardens are a grassroots, collective land use institution developed in urban neighborhoods as a strategy to address the loss of personal agency associated with suburbanization and food insecurity by engaging citizens in producing their own food. In their best operational form, gardens are idealized as a tool to transform vacant land in the built environment to democratize food access and combat hunger in neighborhoods with limited access to healthy and affordable groceries. This study used a door-to-door survey to interview residents in six neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and measure the impact of community gardens on their perceptions of food access. The nuanced illustration of the food system produced calls into question the traditional toolset to eliminate “food deserts,” as personal definitions of economic security and cultural perceptions trump simple spatial distance to the grocery store, implicating the need for an integrative methodology to address compounding deficiencies in production, distribution, and consumption. Gardeners represent a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and motivations, but many do not consider gardening to improve their personal food security. The survey also finds a high prevalence of home gardeners and low rates of community garden participation, despite the geographic proximity of the sample population to community gardens. Although two-thirds of residents could identify the garden in their neighborhood and one-half expressed interest in participation, social and emotional barriers appear to prevent the transition of passive, urban consumers into active producers and participants in the food system. These barriers include lack of gardening knowledge and racial prejudice, suggesting that community organizing models that integrate gardening skills training and create a comfortable place to socialize and play are needed to institutionalize community gardens and open more paths for participation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Luke, Katherineknl11@pitt.eduKNL11
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorWalsh, Randallwalshr@pitt.eduWALSHR
Committee MemberMurrell, Audreyamurrell@katz.pitt.eduAMURRELL
Committee MemberDeitrick, Sabinasabinad@pitt.eduSABINAD
Committee MemberSeidel,
Date: 2 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2014
Approval Date: 2 May 2014
Submission Date: 18 April 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 144
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Environmental Studies
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: garden, community garden, urban agriculture, food access, food desert, community development, greenspace, vacant land, Pittsburgh
Date Deposited: 02 May 2014 17:50
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:19


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