H&R Block + Nextdoor projects promote community connections through community gardens

October 22, 2020 : H&R Block

When H&R Block and Nextdoor put out a nationwide call for projects to improve communities, they asked for submissions that would foster conversations between neighbors. In a time when three in five Americans classify as lonely, physical spaces that enable social interactions, like community gardens, can be especially important for creating connections among neighbors.

With their emphasis on community engagement, five of the 10 projects selected by a partnership between H&R Block and Nextdoor have a community garden focus. Two of the garden projects include: upgrading a community garden with a new gazebo and raised beds for increased accessibility in Acworth, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta; and in Cincinnati, safely connecting an elementary school with a nearby garden with a street mural to slow traffic.

Community gardens are recognized for providing benefits to an individual’s and community’s wellbeing beyond environmental and physical benefits. A Columbia University study on community gardens reported gardeners said receiving social benefits from the garden were more important than the environmental benefits. The study also concluded that, “a large majority of participants indicated they know their neighbors better because of the garden and that they see people in the garden that they would not otherwise see.”

Beyond produce, the garden projects supported by H&R Block and Nextdoor provide residents with opportunities to connect through education programs and activities. H&R Block is working to make every block, neighborhood, and community better with investments to help form connections and improve the spaces where neighbors gather.

Here are five reasons why we believe community gardens serve as important places for building social connections

1. Loneliness in America is increasing.

The majority of Americans are lonely, a number that has been growing since 2018.

2. Physical community spaces play a significant role in social interactions and ensuring people feel more connected.

Gary Dangel, food access coordinator for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation in Cincinnati, saw the benefits firsthand, “We started doing community gardens and thought we were doing it just to grow food. And about six months in, after the first season, I realized that we were actually doing community engagement. And the positive outcome was we had fresh produce…Being out on a regular basis in a community garden on a street where someone lives, eventually they stop and ask you what you’re doing. You get to know people in a very natural way.”

3. Residents of America’s largest cities may lack access to green space.

Not all residents have access to green space.

4. Community gardens connect neighbors while increasing access to fresh food and much more.

According to the Trust for Public Land, community gardens can increase a community’s sense of ownership, serve as a focus for neighborhood activities and connect diverse groups.

5. Community gardens are seen as places for connection.

Gisele Butker, master gardener and community garden manager at the Allatoona Resource Center in Acworth, Ga., sees the value in community gardens. “The community garden is really a connection point for people. I think when you know your neighbors and know their stories you have a way of connecting with them.  Helping each other is what transforms a community,” she says.

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