Community gardens

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Plots of land owned by local governments, non-profits, or other groups that are dedicated as a gardening space for public use on a membership basis
  • Often converted from vacant lots, allowing cities to make use of neglected land
  • Aim to boost access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduce food insecurity, obesity, mental health
  • Intend to increase sense of community, improve neighborhood safety, and encourage physical activity

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

  • May impact fruit and vegetable access and consumption and other healthy eating, physical activity, obesity, and mental health/social connectedness issues
  • May improve neighborhood property values and safety

Best practices in implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Community gardens often struggle to receive adequate funding, participation, land, and materials, including water access.
  • When possible, community garden planners should establish and secure garden space by integrating community gardens into urban park systems.
  • Materials such as seedlings and compost should be distributed to communities.
  • Experts recommend cover crops to improve soil quality and nutrients, soil testing and guidance, and perennial plants to provide habitats for non-pest insects.
  • Vertically grown crops can produce higher-yield harvests.
  • Legislation can be enacted to allow cities and counties to create incentive zones in urban areas, providing landowners with a property tax break for urban agriculture or community gardening activities.
  • Public and nonprofit partnerships can be created, including partnerships with land banks that donate property or help develop community gardens.
  • Organized groups of gardeners can use education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to preserve and create community gardens.
  • Community gardens can serve as spaces for educational programming, which should be provided in multiple languages for diverse populations.