Abstract: Mapping Community Gardens and Their Effects on Food Access and Social Cohesion in Providence, Rhode Island

Community gardens have the potential to be extremely positive resources in many urban neighborhoods. Citizen involvement in urban gardening has economic, social, health, and psychological benefits. In this project my goal is to analyze how community gardens in Providence, Rhode Island impact food insecurity and social cohesion in neighborhoods.

The first part of my research will determine if gardens are located in areas where it is otherwise challenging to acquire fresh food. I will be using GIS to create maps and analyze indicators such as food insecurity, hunger, and food-purchasing options. This will allow me to see where food deserts may exist in the city and where community gardens could have the most impact for food insecure residents. My goal is produce a visual representation that communicates the hunger challenges that the city faces and how gardens might play a role in solving those challenges.

Next, I will engage in field research to see how community gardens affect food access and social cohesion for garden participants. In-depth interviews and participant observation will allow me to analyze the impact gardens have on the lived experiences of their participants. Having never done this type of research before I am currently unsure of how long gathering the data will take, and so I will analyze either one or two gardens depending on the time limits I encounter. Researching one garden would provide a very in-depth understanding of a specific case but observing two would make it possible to compare and contrast situations, which could provide very valuable information.

The final products of my research project will be my maps and a paper detailing my research findings. I will publish my maps online in the form of an ArcGIS Storymap, which I hope can improve the public knowledge around community gardens and make them a more accessible resource in Providence.