Best practices for community gardening in a US-Mexico border community
Health Promotion International
© 2016 The Author. Minority communities such as those on the US-Mexico border are placed at disproportionate high risk for child and adult obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. A built environment characterized by an arid desert climate, lack of access to healthy foods, barriers to increasing physical activity, cultural and community norms which deter healthy eating and sustainable food production, shape obesityrelated health disparities in these communities. Three pilot community gardens (implemented by two local governmental organizations and one community-based organization) were funded through the local Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) initiative in El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces and Anthony, New Mexico (US-MX border communities with high obesity rates) in order to encourage healthy lifestyles among families in the region. A mixed-methods evaluation (n = 223) examined the implementation process, immediate outcomes and best practices of implementing and sustaining community gardens in these minority binational communities. In addition to nutrition-related outcomes, the potential for psychosocial outcomes from participating in community and school garden projects were observed. The best practices in relation to (i) assessing community norms related to growing food, (ii) increasing access to land and water for community/school gardening and (iii) enhancing social support for gardening are discussed. The implications of these best practices for obesity prevention and implementing community gardens in a minority US-MX border community characterized by cultural, geographical and socioeconomic barriers are examined.