A Case Study of a Beginner Gardening Program in North Carolina

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Virginia Tech

Food insecurity refers to the lack of reliable access to nutritious and affordable foods for people of all backgrounds (Meenar and Hoover, 2012) and is a problem faced by approximately 50 million Americans (Smith, 2011) and thirteen percent of North Carolina households. Food security and poverty have been directly linked and North Carolina's poverty rate (14.3%) is above the national level (13%) (Curtis, 2010). Community gardens have been recognized globally by many experts including health professionals, community organizers, environmental activists, and policymakers, as an "important contributor to economic development, food security, and environmental management"(Baker, 2004). Together, these professionals use gardens as a means to educate the public about food production and nutrition. Empirical research has documented many community garden benefits, however, the examination of educational programs associated with these gardens is limited.

The purpose of this case study was to examine the development and implementation of a beginner gardening program and its influence on program participants in an area known to be food insecure within North Carolina. The researcher utilized multiple means of qualitative methods including: 1) semi-structured pre- and post- interviews with program coordinators and participants, 2) content analysis, 3) a reflection journal used to observe the program, and the facilitation of a 4) focus group with program participants. The findings revealed the challenges program coordinators encountered throughout the development and implementation, as well as the effects of the beginner gardening program on program participants.

Gardening program, garden-based education, Program Planning Theory, Reasoned Action Approach, program evaluation, community food initiative, community food systems, food security, North Carolina