Planty for the People: A Community-Based Participatory Research Approach to Healthy, Plant-Based Food Access in the Border Region

Marina Villegas, University of Texas at El Paso


Access to food is an issue for many across the U.S., especially in low-income and high minority areas (Gallinar, et al., 2017). The border region of El Paso, Texas has several designated areas without access to supermarkets where residents may purchase food within a walking or short driving distance (HFAC, 2010). Researchers have linked food insecurity to nutritionally inadequate diets, which are shown to lead to obesity or other disorders like heart disease, diabetes, etc. (Marks, 2015; Craig and Mangels, 2009; Bartolotto, 2013). Food insecurity leads to an array of issues down the line that negatively affects not only health but socioeconomic status as well, and since food is essential to being human, the lack of access to it is an issue of social justice. A local cafe, One Grub Community, and their sister non-profit organization, Planty for the People, are fighting this food-related injustice and has built its community on urban gardening, community engagement through volunteerism, and plant-based food access within the border region. Through an Urban Political Ecology (UPE) perspective, the author argues that this three-pronged approach to food access is a unique, innovative, and efficient strategy to help people gain more access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This mixed-methods research documents the contributions and impact of the One Grub Community cafe and organization to the local community through surveys, interviews, content analysis, and participatory research. The community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach provides in-depth insights into the author’s experience volunteering in the garden and working with One Grub Community owners/administrators in community outreach efforts and applied for administrative work. The documentation of this three-prong strategy against food insecurity has the potential to teach great lessons of local efforts to address food insecurity how to respond to unforeseen obstacles, such as pandemics, when serving vulnerable populations. This research shows a multidimensional, social entrepreneurial model has the power to provide success in both business ventures and social justice, with the help of other community organization working toward food justice. It also shows how community gardens and food sovereignty initiatives have wide ranges of benefits for many kinds of people and provides further explanation on how food venues that support food access can become local hubs that help to cultivate a community of care, wellbeing, healing, education through many avenues, and commensality, thereby empowering the people of this community. The challenges that this organization deals with are detailed in this research as well, which include a lack of in-depth discussion of healthy habits and diets, and difficulty helping those who are afraid to ask for help or who are not aware of their programs.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Villegas, Marina, "Planty for the People: A Community-Based Participatory Research Approach to Healthy, Plant-Based Food Access in the Border Region" (2020). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI28262595.