Case Study on a Container Gardening Program: Can Home Food Production Impact Community Food Security in Rural Appalachia?
Dobson, Elizabeth Rose
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Home gardening has historically been a subsistence or supplemental form of food procurement worldwide and promoted as a food security project in times of economic hardship. Qualitative research was used to investigate container gardening's potential to provide the impetus for further agricultural activities within low-income, low-food-access, rural Appalachian Virginia, thereby impacting community food security, food choices of individuals, and the local food system. Ethnography and phenomenology methodologies were used through the lens of community-engaged research, and the lived experiences of participants were recognized as valid representations of food insecurity. Semi-structured interviews with fourteen participating households revealed program involvement was deeply connected to previous food production experiences and fueled by existing interest in home gardening. Containers were valued as providing alternative modes to continue a meaningful practice, specifically mitigating challenges of limited mobility for the elderly. As rural areas are experiencing an outmigration of young people and struggling social services, container gardening could be utilized as a low-cost culturally appropriate mental- and nutritional-health service for the rural elderly. Similar initiatives should begin with appreciative inquiry into existing perceptions, values, assets, and potentials within a target community. Through preliminary investigation, needs and barriers can be acknowledged and community-identified solutions can be implemented through culturally sensitive program development. With the existing impetus for home gardening in the region, program expansion could potentially impact food security and the local food system. Overall, this case study serves to further endorse a public effort to support home food production in rural areas of the United States.
- Masters Theses