Urban food growing continues to too often be considered ‘fringe’ by authorities in the UK despite studies showing that the UK could grow up to 40% of its own fruit and vegetables by using urban green spaces and that urban agriculture positively contributes to subjective and objective measures of food security.
However, looking across the pond to fellow food-justice fighters in the USA there are some amazing examples of authorities wholeheartedly supporting urban food growing for communities.
In 2019 Philadelphia Parks & Recreations department began work on a city-wide urban agriculture plan called “Growing from the Root”. The plan, which was released in April 2023, uplifts Philadelphia’s rich history of urban farming and gardening and Confronts the legacy of structural racism and land-based oppression in the city. Additionally, the plan set out a 10-year framework for investing in agriculture and food justice with recommendations to the City and its partners on how to achieve the plan’s goals.
“Urban agriculture has the power to increase local food production and to address hunger and food apartheid, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, waste, and climate crisis. We can build a racially and economically just 21st-century local food system if we redistribute and invest long-term resources to build sustainable infrastructure for agriculture in the city.” – Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
The plan is made up to 6 core goals including increasing access to growing space in all neighbourhoods, building long-term support for urban agriculture into the City’s infrastructure, policies and programs and recognising the role urban agriculture can play in the lives and livelihoods of people and communities.
Meanwhile, New York City has over 550 registered community gardens that are supported by the City’s Parks Department via their GreenThumb program, which celebrated its 45th year of operation in 2023. The GreenThumb program has a team of coordinators who support the gardens, and the groups can order bulk materials such as soil, compost, woodchips, mulch, lumber, and landscape fabric for free through the program, as well as access support with things like leases and water access as well as training on garden design, carpentry for gardens, and group development and organising.
“GreenThumb gardens create hubs of neighborhood pride and provide a myriad of environmental, economic and social benefits to the neighborhoods in which they thrive. GreenThumb’s mission is to support and educate community gardens and urban farming across the five boroughs, while preserving open space. By providing free garden materials, technical assistance, educational workshops, and seasonal programs, GreenThumb supports neighborhood volunteers who steward community gardens as active resources that strengthen communities.” – New York Park Department
This culture of support for community gardens means that the city is also home to 700 school gardens, 700 gardens on New York City Housing Authority land, and about 100 gardens in land trusts.