Organic Gardens in the Inner City – Andrew Shue

This morning as usual I ate a large breakfast to start off my day. I take this routine for granted, whereas for a whopping 21.7 million children around the U.S. breakfast and lunch are uncertain or sporadic (CNNMoney). In Ted Steinberg’s Down to Earth, he mentions that during the rise of factory farming, “Americans commonly worried that the advent of modern, urban life had cut them off from the natural world,” (Steinberg, 179).

Today, many Americans young and old do not have access to food from the natural world any longer due to their living conditions, or financial situation, this is simply unacceptable. Some easy solutions to this problem could be increased education to low-income children on the importance of nutrition and simple gardening techniques as well as an increase in municipal land and funding for community gardens in urban areas.

In Chicago alone on average of 1.05 million children receive free or reduced breakfast/lunch, nearly Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.09.13 PMthe entire population of the State of New Hampshire (Lutton). The environmental impacts of ensuring these children receive their food in a timely manner are significant considering the amount of food that must be delivered to these schools and the gas that is used to transport the food. Aside from the environmental effects, there are also the social impacts of giving kids food, which boosts their ability to pay attention and contribute at school (CNNMoney). Some experts even go as far to say the free or reduced food prices motivate kids to attend school because of the likelihood of food scarcity at home.

One individual who pioneered the fusion of organic gardening in impoverished schools is Alice Waters a renowned American chef famous for her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA (Schlosser, Wilson, 250). Waters instituted the Edible Playground initiative in the Berkeley area after being appalled by the reheated fast food she saw the kids consuming. With her initiative asphalt was torn up and an organic garden installed that produced lettuce, corn, pumpkins etc., that the kids learned how to make into simple and healthy meals (Schlosser, Wilson, 250). This initiative not only educates children on how to feed themselves better but also instills in them sustainable practices and skills that they can translate into use later on in life. Edible Playground also gives them a chance to experience and use nature in a natural way, as they may not have time to experience nature on their own due to their family situation.

I believe Alice Water’s model could be used to a greater effect if the idea was brought to Inner City areas all over the U.S. allowing people there a chance to experience and use fresh food daily. Programs that get kids involved in using food could overtime reduce the resources that are used to bring food to them which would benefit the environment overall cutting down on oil used, industrial Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.06.54 PMfood pollution and transportation costs. Today, there are currently around 65 community gardens in the City of Chicago, however many are centered in largely affluent city communities (LaTrace). If Chicago were to take more time to construct community gardens in ‘less desirable’ parts of the city the effort could yield lower street violence and well being through improved social connections according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). More community gardens could also give impoverished families a chance at growing their own fresh food, which they could incorporate into their daily diets.

Finally, the fact that in the 21st century people are going hungry in the wealthiest country in the world is unacceptable. With simple changes to how we educate kids in school on sustainable food options and how to prepare them we can help bring up a population that will both be in touch with nature and how to sustain its uses into the future. It’s about time we put a bit more effort into ideas such as gardens and community than into how to best maximize how to transport frozen food and feed it to America’s posterity.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.06.16 PM

For more information on sustainable food practices, follow these links/resources –

“Community Gardens.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 June 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.

LaTrace, AJ. “Urbs in Horto: Mapping 65 Community Gardens in Chicago.” Curbed Chicago. N.p., 14 July 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.

Lutton, Linda. “Half of All Public School Students in Illinois Now Considered Low-income.” WBEZ91.5. N.p., 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.

Schlosser, Eric, and Charles Wilson. Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Fast Food. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.

Steinberg, Theodore. Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History. New York Oxford UP, 2013. Print.

“When School’s out for Summer, Millions of Kids Go Hungry.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 22 June 2015. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <;.


8 thoughts on “Organic Gardens in the Inner City – Andrew Shue

  1. mlongbi101anselm

    Happy to obtain information about these Organic Playgrounds. I had seen them in person before but didn’t know the origin. I only saw them as easily accessible agriculture for small restaurants, not a way to provide for underprivileged children. One thing that came to my mind was how climate in particular regions could affect the specific crops grown. Fun fact: there are organic gardens at Fenway Park in Boston!

  2. Nick Rolli Post author

    Very interesting topic. I did not know that there were specific Organic farms (playgrounds) that were meant for less fortunate children. It gives these less fortunate children a chance to improve their nutrition. What stood out to me was the amount of Organic Playgrounds in the city of Chicago. I was surprised by this statistic because the “Windy City” is not blessed with a year round climate for farming conditions like other city’s in America are.

  3. Sarah McVann Post author

    I like the idea of “Edible Playgrounds”, its name is interesting for kids, and it teaches them a great deal about nutrition. For the inner city kids they don’t often experience interaction with nature in this way, so the organic gardens at schools is a great way to teach them these useful skills.

  4. Brett Michaud

    The community gardens are a really great idea. I’ve seen a few around in New Hampshire, myself. The ideas and knowledge behind what something like this can do and how much it can benefit us, now and in the future, is definitely something to be looked into. It is sometimes difficult to imagine that so many people still go hungry throughout the world, especially in our own country. Citizens and able individuals should get involved to help this situation out.

  5. Christina Coronis

    This was a really eye opening blog post. I visited Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy left it in shambles, and saw a few community gardens being started. I remember one of the residents saying that the gardens served as not only a source of food, but also a symbol of hope. People were left without homes and jobs, but they still were able to provide food for their families even a small portion. I had no idea where this idea originally came from and I’m glad I read your blog to find it out.

  6. earthhist Post author

    Wow Shue this is a very interesting topic. I’ve never heard of these “Organic Playgrounds” before this blog so it was neat to read about. After reading about this it seems like such a great, simple idea, and I’m not sure why they aren’t more popular. I’ve also been to countries like Haiti which have major food problems especially with young children and I feel like this could be a great way to try and help!

  7. Sarah Bartlett

    Hi Andrew, I really enjoyed your post. It is an awesome point you pulled out from Steinberg that “Americans commonly worried that the advent of modern, urban life had cut them off from the natural world”. It reminds me of what we talked about in class today after reading about urbanization and the impacts of cities on the environment. People who live in cities who have more money consume resources so much faster because they take for granted where their water is coming from and where their food is coming from. I know that when I get into the shower and flush the toilet I don’t give it a second thought when as you pointed out there are millions of people in America who do not have those luxuries. I think that educating students from a young age where their resources are coming from may make a difference. Awareness is the beginning of change.


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