Thursday, December 17, 2009

Growing Authentic Community in Denver

It seems like community is a buzz word these days. I hear so many people talk about I it and I’ve even been a part of “community groups” through church. Talking about it is the easy part, actually building community is another thing altogether.
I have recently been challenged to consider how to take our groups to the next level while they are with us. We teach our students about social justice while they are visiting Denver’s low-income communities. I want to motivate students to tackle tough questions and consider how they can do more than just serve a week with CSM.
What is the value of community gardens and could they be part of the answer to social justice issues? This is one question CSM Denver groups will be asking and answering this next year.
Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) has been instrumental in assisting low income to moderate income neighborhoods in starting and maintaining community gardens.
“Through the gardens, participants assume responsibility to improve their community, initiate a sense of pride in their surroundings, and improve their nutritional status through healthy, fresh food.”
There are over 90 gardens throughout the Denver metro area that DUG either operates or assists. One thing that I really value about DUG is the importance of ownership that they instill in urban communities. And, by beautifying a neighborhood through a garden it gives the community a reason to be proud of where they live and the desire to keep it that way. There are 19 gardens that were started by DUG but do not need assistance anymore because the community is making it happen on their own.
True community looks out for the needs of our neighbors. The average household on Food Stamps receives $228 a month. Sometimes it is difficult for families with low income to afford healthy fruits and veggies.
My experience from working at a food bank is that inexpensive food is many times unhealthy and even junk food. The option for a family to be part of a community garden means that they have healthy options freely available to them.
Community gardening is just one small piece to fighting social justice issues, but the benefits it offers to any neighborhood are definitely worth the effort it takes.

Benefits to Community Gardens
*Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
*Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
*Stimulates Social Interaction
*Encourages Self-Reliance
*Beautifies Neighborhoods
*Produces Nutritious Food
*Reduces Family Food Budgets
*Conserves Resources
*Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
*Reduces Crime
*Preserves Green Space
*Creates income opportunities and economic development
*Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
*Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

-Keysha Boggess, CSM Denver Founder and City Director

Learn how YOU can serve with CSM in Denver!

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