Centre for Urban Health Initiatives study assesses how home food gardening contributes to community food security in Toronto

Monday, January 14, 2008 1:32:58 AM

Research News

By Sarah Wakefield and Robin Kortright

Food security is a fundamental element of community health. Informal house-lot food growing, by providing convenient access to diverse varieties of affordable and nutritious produce, can provide an important support for community food security. With the objective of developing an exploratory assessment of the contribution home food gardening makes to community food security in Toronto, Professor Sarah Wakefield and M.A. student Robin Kortright conducted in-depth interviews with gardeners in two contrasting neighbourhoods for a Centre for Urban Health Initiatives project titled “Edible backyards: Residential Land Use for Food Production in Toronto”. A typology of food gardeners was developed, and this qualitative understanding of residential food production was then assessed from a community food security perspective. It was found that growing food contributes to food security at all income levels by encouraging and enabling a more nutritious diet. The sustainability of household food sourcing and gardeners’ overall health and well-being also increased with food production. Secure access to suitable land to grow food and gardening skills were found to be the most significant barriers to residential food production.

A detailed report on the project will be available on the Centre for Urban Health Initiatives (http://www.utoronto.ca/cuhi) website in January, 2008.

Sarah Wakefield is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Robin Kortright is a recent M.A. graduate of the Department of Geography and the Centre for Environment’s collaborative in Environment and Health Program, University of Toronto. For more information, please contact Sarah Wakefield at sarah.wakefield@utoronto.ca or Robin Kortright at robin.kortright@utoronto.ca.



At the Centre for Urban Health Initiatives (CUHI), partnerships are built and research is carried out to study social and physical determinants of health in cities, to build relationships with local communities, and to develop community-based research. Currently, CUHI research focuses on food and health, neighbourhoods and health, and urban physical environments and health.

CUHI also offers seed grant funding to support collaborative projects that explore the physical and social environmental factors that impact the health of residents. Seed grants assist research projects in their development phase by funding pilot projects, literature reviews, testing of innovative methodologies and use of secondary data. A recent example is a CUHI-funded pilot study by Evergreen (www.evergreen.ca), a Canadian charitable organization, to investigate the influence of green school ground design on children’s physical activity.

In addition, CUHI hosts public seminars such as the Spotlight on Urban Health Seminar Series and Food for Talk Seminar Series, in addition to other seminars and workshops.

For more information on CUHI, its projects and activities, please visit: http://www.utoronto.ca/cuhi/ or email cuhi.admin@utoronto.ca.