Although most community garden programs before the 1970s were generally considered temporary solutions to food shortages, economic depression and civic crises, most advocates today claim that community gardens have permanent, long-term functions that provide a number of benefits to individuals, families and communities. Those benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Food production and access
Community gardens enable people without suitable land of their own to grow high-quality fruits and vegetables for themselves, their families and their communities, possibly in places that lack grocery stores or other fresh food outlets.
Some research indicates that community gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables (Bremer et al., 2003).
Gardening requires physical activity and helps improve overall physical health.
- Mental health
Interacting with plants and having access to nature help reduce stress and increase gardeners' sense of wellness and belonging. (Malakoff, 1995)
Community gardens foster a sense of community identity, ownership and stewardship. They provide a place for people of diverse backgrounds to interact and share cultural traditions.
Gardens help reduce the heat-island effect in cities, increase biodiversity, reduce rain runoff, recycle local organic materials and reduce fossil fuel use from food transport.
All ages can acquire and share knowledge related to gardening, cooking, nutrition and health. Some gardens have programs that provide training in horticulture, business management, leadership development and market gardening.
Gardens provide a safe place for youth to explore gardening, nature and community through formal programming or informal participation.
Produce may be sold or used to offset food purchases from the grocery store.
- Crime prevention
Gardens can help reduce crime.
- Property values
Some research indicates community gardens may increase surrounding property values (Whitmire) .