Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture



Health/Nutrition and Urban Agriculture

Urban Soils and Backyard Gardens: Potential Contaminants and Remediation Techniques
"We have used spinach (Spinacea oleracea), sunflowers (Helianthus annus), and Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) as phytoaccumulators for lead. We sampled the garden soils before any planting took place, and then again after the plants were harvested, and analyzed them for total and plant-available soil lead using EPA methods. We also analyzed the roots and shoots of harvested plants. We found that in moderately acid soils (pH 5-6.5) with low organic matter, phytoremediation removed at least 100 mg/kg lead after one growing season." Posted July 15, 2007

Table-Top Garden Beds For People In Wheelchairs
"To enable people in wheelchairs to grow their own vegetables, Neighbourgardens has designed and built solid cedar Table-Top Garden Beds, 72"Lx40"Wx10" soil base, with specially contoured sides to allow easy wheelchair access from both sides. A portable greenhouse attachment allows for winter gardening and a specially designed drainage system conducts the earth's electro-magnetic energy up into the garden bed to provide the gardener with the same therapeutic value that is normally derived from gardening directly in the ground." Updated October 21, 2006

Vancouver's New Pesticide Reduction Bylaw - January 1, 2006
"As of January 1, 2006, the use of outdoor pesticides on lawns and in gardens will be regulated by section 5.17 of the Health By-Law No. 6580. Application of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, will be restricted. Certain conditions will need to be met before pesticides will be permitted provided they are listed in Schedule A to the by-law."
You can read about the new by-law on the Grow Natural web site:
Pesticide Use Restriction By-law for 2006
and read the by-law here:
This PDF is 39 pages long. See section 5.17 (pages 28, 29) and Schedule A (pages 37, 38)

Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture - Public Health and Food Security
PDF "Research shows that gardening is a preferred form of exercise across age, gender, and ethnicity. Overall, older persons do more gardening than younger ones. Even moderate forms of garden exercise increase muscle strength and endurance in activity-reduced persons including pregnant women, cancer survivors, and those generally sedentary." Also a one page handout for public health officials is available here: Factsheet: Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture - Public Health and Food Security Revised April 5, 2005

Does Irrigated Urban Agriculture Influence the Transmission of Malaria in the City of Kumasi, Ghana?
"To verify the possible impact of irrigated urban agriculture on malaria transmission in cities, we studied entomological parameters, self-reported malaria episodes, and household-level data in the city of Kumasi, Ghana. A comparison was made between city locations without irrigated agriculture, city locations with irrigated urban vegetable production, and peri-urban (PU) locations with rain-fed agriculture." Posted January 10, 2004

Heavy Metal Concentrations in Urban And Peri-Urban Gardens of Dzerzhinsk and Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
"The general heavy metal concentrations in the study area, however, was significantly lower than e.g. in Berlin, Hamburg, Moscow or London, which was attributed to less traffic and potential leaching due to sandy soil texture." Posted December 16, 2003

Lead poison: How safe is sukumawiki (kale)? and Leaden Gardens by Science News
"Concern over high concentrations of lead in kale (sukumawiki) sold in Nairobi has evoked mixed reactions from various quarters. While authorities at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) have no reports of lead poisoning in among the clients, other commentators have drummed up the crucial role of urban farming and the need for policy regulation to make it safe." Posted December 16, 2003

Lead Levels Of Edibles Grown In Contaminated Residential Soils: A Field Survey
"Some edible portions of the leafy vegetables and herbs, however, were found to have lead levels that, if consumed, could contribute to the total body burden of lead. Therefore, urban gardeners should test the lead levels in their soils and develop strategies to ensure safety.". Posted November 20, 2003

Ground Work: Investigating the Need for Nature in the City
"The individual and community health benefits include the development of stronger neighbourhood ties and a sense of community, reduced rates of crime and violence, and increased recreational opportunities. In addition, contact with nature has been shown to have positive physiological and psychological effects on people, including decreasing stress, restoring mental energy and reducing the recovery time from illness. " Posted October 10, 2002

Human-Environment Research Laboratory (HERL) Studies the Relationship between People and the Physical Environment
"The impact of the physical environment on human aggression has been well-established - crowding, high temperatures, and noise have all been linked to violent behavior. Some scientists believe that it's because people living under these conditions suffer from something called chronic mental fatigue, which can make them inattentive, irritable, and impulsive - all of which can be linked to aggressive behavior. Exposure to green spaces, it has been shown, can mitigate the harmful effects of chronic mental fatigue, reducing aggressive behavior in the process."
Posted June 7, 2002

Growing Food, Healing Lives: Linking Community Food Security and Domestic Violence
"Women were proud of their new knowledge. Some residents had never previously gardened, assuming they wouldn't be able to succeed at it. The act of gardening itself became empowering, providing a "feeling of pride of eating from the garden something that I grew," as one resident put it. A Spanish-speaking resident also explained how important it was to learn that one could "have our own vegetables in a small space where we are living." Another woman said, "I like the classes. Learning things like making compost. I used to think it stinks, but now I love it!" Download the PDF file.
Posted June 6, 2002

Horticulture Therapy
Strolling along a path in her electric wheelchair, she paused, and a gleam came to her eye. Glancing mischieviously over her shoulder, she leaned closer to confide, "I like getting dirty the best."

FAO's Food and Nutrition Division's latest Publications on Home Gardening
Home Gardening for Africa
Home Gardening for Latin America
Home Gardening for Asia
Posted September 4, 2001

The Vancouver Community Kitchen Project
"A Community Kitchen is a group of individuals who meet regularly to cook healthy, nutritious meals. Everyone is expected to participate in the shopping, preparation, and cooking; the only requirement is an interest in food.". Posted June 23, 2001

A Survey of Community Gardens in Upstate New York: Implications for Health Promotion and Community Development
"Community gardens involve the main characteristics that have been described as important for health promotion in minority communities; these are social support, an emphasis on informal networks, and community organizing through 'multiple change tactics'". Posted March 1, 2001

The Health Impacts of Peri-Urban Natural Resource Development
An important paper By Dr. Martin Birley, International Health Impact Assessment Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. "The urban agricultural movement has recognised some of the health hazards associated with urban and peri-urban agricultural production. Malaria in Africa is one example where more careful consideration is required." Updated February 8, 2000

The Nutrition Garden Project
This past spring, Albie Miles began growing all his own food in a 4,500 square foot garden at the Center for Agroecology, University of California at Santa Cruz. ... A typical breakfast consisted of toasted amaranth porridge with winter squash. For lunch he ate stir-fried or steamed vegetables with wheat and amaranth chapati bread.

People, Plants and Homes
Government agency, BC Housing, manages 8,000 units of social housing across the province of British Columbia. More than 1,850 tenants are actively involved in a unique urban gardening program and large community gardens flourish at 26 housing developments.

The Spirit of Healing. This piece was presented at "The Healing Dimensions of People-Plant Relations Research Symposium" in March 1994. It follows the course of the presenter's experience with cancer and how environment, landscape and gardens played a vital role in the recovery process from her illness.

Sprouting at Home
Fresh organic vegetables every day from a square foot of counter space. Updated February 24, 2000

Improving Nutrition Through Home Gardening
The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization publishes Improving Nutrition Through Home Gardening: A training package for preparing field workers in Southeast Asia.

Dietary, Social and Economic Evaluation of Philadelphia Urban Gardens
A 1991 report in the Journal of Nutrition Education found "that gardening is related to an increased frequency of vegetable consumption and to the reduced frequency of milk product consumption."

Nutrition and Gardening: References

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Revised July 17, 2007

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture