Community Gardens & Food Security
Food Security Definition: Access to sufficient, safe, affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods at all times, and possessing the knowledge of how to prepare these foods.
One-third of the population in Montana - approximately 318,896 people, over 92,000 of which are children - are at risk of food insecurity. Over the past 50 years, the amount of Montana produced food that is consumed in-state has dwindled from from 70% to merely 5% (Babcock, 2008). By tapping into Montana’s rich agricultural heritage, through initiatives aimed at increasing local food production and improving education in our schools and community, Billings can reverse this trend.
Food insecurity is a reality for many in Billings; however, community garden projects nationwide have proven that backyard and community gardening are great ways for individuals and families to grow their own fresh, safe, and healthy food at little cost. Community gardening provides a ‘hand-up’ rather than a ‘hand-out,’ as individuals and families gain valuable skills, knowledge, and experience from growing their own fresh and nutritious produce.
In an effort to address this issue, the City of Billings Community Development division created a Community Garden and Food Security Initiative, as a part of the Billings Metro VISTA Project (MVP). Since 2009, MVP has brought AmeriCorps VISTA members from across the country to Billings to assist in the implementation of Welcome Home Billings, the City’s ten-year plan to impact homelessness.
Two AmeriCorps VISTA members worked on the initiative from July 2010 to July 2011 to increase food security within the community. The initiative aims to provide low-income residents in particular, with increased access to fresh, nutritious foods and the skills and knowledge of how to grow that food by establishing a network of community gardens and growing spaces. Additionally, a local Food Policy Council has been established to assess gaps in service and address issues of food insecurity.
The following garden initiatives have been supported through the Billings Metro VISTA Project:
- HAB Community Gardens Project
- Veteran's Garden at Independence Hall
- Youth Garden at The Salvation Army
- Children's Garden at Billings Head Start
- Amend Park Community Garden
- Children's Garden at Friendship House
- Housing Authority of Billings Pumpkin Patch
Food Policy Council
The Food Policy Council meets regularly to collectively address issues relating to food security in the Billings Area. Learn more about the initiative here.
VISTA Gardens in the News!
Here are a few of the City's VISTA-supported community garden projects featured in the Billings Gazette: