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Ideas for research for Community Gardens/Nutrition

  • Subject: [cg] Ideas for research for Community Gardens/Nutrition
  • From: Sharon Gordon <gordonse@one.net>
  • Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2001 20:20:04 -0400

Here is a copy of what I sent to Ardyth at Cornell for ideas for nutritionally
oriented research ideas involving community gardens.  A lot could be learned
by asking some of the same questions in different areas and in areas
where different ethnic/immigrant groups are concentrated.  Different growing
conditions would also have an impact on the results.

CG = community garden

1)Servings of vegetables eaten per day pre-CG, during garden season, post 
garden season
     (Do people eat more veggies once they have grown them even though the 
season is
       over?  May be affected by whether they grew enough to preserve some.)
2)Variety of vegetables eaten pre-CG and now.  Did they grow and eat things 
     never had before?  Did a fellow gardener give them something new they 
tried and liked?
      Are they finding out about, growing, eating, foods from other ethnic 
groups that
      they are seeing other gardeners grow?
3) Nutritional analysis of daily eating pre-CG, during garden season, post 
garden season
4) Are immigrants using the CG to grow foods from their homelands that are 
hard or
      expensive to obtain here?  What does their dietary intake look like 
with and without this?
5) Is food from the CG helping a soup kitchen or food pantry?  How does 
that affect
     the food receiver's diet?
6) Are there times when CGers are hungry?  Is hunger avoided during the 
gardening season?
7) During the gardening season, do the CGers buy any fruits or vegetables 
or do they grow
     everything? If some things are bought, what?  There was an interesting 
study done
      in Kenya by someone from Scotland, I think, showing the effects of 
biointensive gardening.
      They looked at how often people were hungry and number of people who 
were able to
       grow all their own vegetables pre and post biointensive training.  I 
have read only a
        second hand summary of this.  John Jeavons of Ecology Action would 
likely have a
         complete cite.
8)  Which gardens are most productive?
       Standard rows and chemicals
        standard rows and organic
          Results likely to be affected by grower experience and what has 
previously been
           done to the site.  Also affected by what is allowed.  Some 
gardeners can use
           the same place from year to year with permanent 
plantings.  Others get plowed
           under and get new spaces every year.  (I favor the permanent 
plots so the
           person reaps the cumulative effect of their work.)
9)  Does the garden have pot lucks, tastings, or recipe demos?  If so, does 
      increase nutrition? variety?
10) Don't know if your students want to look at social or political 
aspects, but
       CGs make possible new social and political connections.
11) If the student wants to engage in some sort of intervention, such as 
       education, or providing seeds/transplants for free or nearly free, 
how does this affect
        what is grown and eaten?  What if people are given a fixed set of 
plants or a
        choice of plants?  What if the choices are directed for nutritional 
         such as being able to choose
         between kale and collards but not given lettuce as an option?
12)   Is anyone interested in growing a complete diet biointensive or 
         style? Or at least a complete one for a specific period of time as 
most CG
          plots are too small to grow a whole year's worth.  What is this 
like to grow
           and eat?  How much fuel is used to cook it conventionally or with a
           solar/haybox/rocket stove combo?  Best helps for this would be 
One Circle:
            How to Grow a Complete Diet in Less than 1000 square feet by 
David Duhon;
             How to Grow More Vegetables than you ever thought possible on 
less land
              than you can imagine by John Jeavons, 5th ed(6th out Dec 
2001); a write
              up done by a student at UC-Santa Cruz(I think) which John 
Jeavons has
              info on.   In order to do this study in one year, the student 
bought the
              grain/compost crops as if he had grown them the season before 
and then
               added this food to the study year's food.   Alternative fuel 
                from Aprovecho http://www.efn.org/~apro/ .
13) Actually the fuel issue itself would make an interesting study.  If 
less wood(etc)
             is used the person needs fewer calories to grow/fetch/prepare 
it.  Less
             land is used to grow the cooking wood and more is available 
for food.
             It might be interesting to grow a community garden with a 
sustainable plan
              that produces the food, the fertilizer for the food(and 
fertilizer plants), and
              the fuel to cook it.  What plan maximizes human nutrition 
while caring for
              the land?
14) Likewise a food plus compost crop study would be helpful.

In 12, 13, or 14, the graduate student would probably need to be the 
in order to get the detail needed unless subject(s) were well paid for this 
sort of
data collection.

15) What sort of impact does the community garden have on children?  In our 
       the children asked for cooking lessons so they could eat what they grew.
       Their parents are generally too drugged/drunk/absent to cook for them or
        feed them, so with their new knowledge they can make healthy food for
        themselves and eat the things they grow that are more tasty cooked 
than raw.
        This probably improves their nutritional intake, but I don't know 
that anyone
         has measured the differences.
16) Do children who garden eat a wider variety of foods than those who don't--
        even the ones not being starved?  Does growing something increase the
        probability that a child will taste it?
17) How does CGing affect a person's knowledge about
       heirloom vegetables
        open pollinated vs hybrid plants for seed saving
        the dangers of gmo and terminator seeds
         pesticide and herbicide damage to land/food/environment/humans
         water use, conservation, collection, swales
18)  How does CGing affect aspects of a person's health other than direct
        nutritional intake?
         weight, body fat, cholesterol
          iron levels
           arthritis pain, mobility, range of motion
            bone density
           health problems compared to a matched set that doesn't 
garden--especially new
            or increasing problems
            health status of newborns

A person who might have lots more ideas is Joan Gussow
as she has a great combination of academic nutritional skills and wide ranging
gardening experience.

I'd be interested in hearing about any studies that your research group does as
many of these issues are of interest to me.


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