West Palm Beach, FL has partnered with Florida A&M University to establish three community gardens in its historic Northwest neighborhoods. The sites chosen for the gardens are defined as food deserts, as they lack access to conveniently located grocery stores and fresh produce.
The community gardens will be run by FAMU’s Cooperative Extension Program with the aim of providing educational opportunities and new gardening experiences for communities that traditionally may not have had access to the experience. FAMU plans to work with nearby schools and after-school programs to better engage the youth about the importance of farming, particularly in concentrated urban spaces.
“It’s more than just the three gardens. And so our approach is to look at it a little more comprehensively, teaching not only how to grow it, but how to eat it — how it’s nourishing for the body,” Vonda Richardson, the executive director of FAMU’s Co-op Extension Program, said. “The impact can be tremendous. People have lost the art of growing food for themselves. When I was growing up, people had little small gardens in their backyard or they had something growing in a pot on the porch. It may have only provided a meal, but it was that meal that they didn’t have to go out and spend money on.”
According to the US Census Bureau, 17% of the population in West Palm Beach lives below the poverty line – compared with 11% for Palm Beach County.
“This West Palm Beach – FAMU community gardens initiative will connect residents in low-resource neighborhoods with food, the most basic of human needs, and will teach them new skills which can lead to new opportunities,” said Mayor Keith A. James. “This program has the potential to empower residents and transform our city, which will truly prosper only when residents of all neighborhoods are thriving. We are honored to partner with FAMU and are grateful for the university’s interest in our city.“