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Increasing Barrier Free Access to Food Security Through Community Gardens: The Role of Niagara Region Municipalities in Advancing Policy and Reducing Barriers

United Way Niagara and Niagara Community Garden Network Release Position Statement to Advance Food Security

Food security is a basic human right yet almost 60,000 people in Niagara are food insecure, experiencing limited access to nutritious, affordable and culturally appropriate food*.1 The Government of Canada states “income-related food security is an important public health issue in Canada and is a key social determinant of health. Food security is essential for healthy eating – without consistent economic access to sufficient nutritious food, healthy eating cannot be achieved, increasing the risk of poor health.”2 We recognize the significant effect that food insecurity can have on one’s mental, physical, social and overall health and wellbeing. For Niagara residents to be food secure, as defined by the United Nations Committee on World Food Security, everyone in Niagara, at all times, has physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.3

Community gardens act as a promising strategy to decrease food insecurity because of their ability to provide lower-income households with access to nutritious food.4 Community gardens are significantly improving access to healthy and affordable food at the more than 1,200 plots across Niagara, often for our most marginalized populations. Community gardens can affect an individual’s skill development, employment and income, our economic landscape, the environment, and our social and community connectedness. The recent Case Study of the St. Catharines Centennial Community Garden highlights how “community gardens not only address food insecurity but also provide a safe space for all participants to form meaningful relationships; with one another, their community and the natural environment”. 5 However, community gardens, while adding tremendous value to the community, continue to be faced with barriers to success, including policies and protocols r