• Community Gardens Act of 2009 introduced in Congress

According to the Vancouver, British Columbia, blog CityFarmer.info, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) on July 15 introduced HR 3225 into the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill known as the Community Gardens Act of 2009 (click here to read the text of the bill).

In a nutshell, this bill creates a grant program that compensates community groups up to 80 percent of the costs of starting and maintaining a community garden (click here to read the CityFarmer.info article about the bill).

Activities eligible to receive grant assistance include acquisition of interest in real property, construction, community outreach, operations, and any other appropriate activity. When making grants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will consider the geographic diversity among grantees and the number of individuals in a local community that are likely to participate in a community garden.

“I’ve introduced this bill to help local groups create new community gardens in neighborhoods around the country,” Inslee said in a press release posted on his Congressional Web site (click here to read it). “Community gardens provide local food sources, strengthen and beautify neighborhoods and let people in urban settings enjoy the benefits of local agriculture. As a parent, I’m also happy to note that community gardens engage families and children in growing their own vegetables, which studies have shown has increased the willingness of children to eat their veggies.”

According to a national study, 1 million households participated in community gardens in 2008, but an estimated 5 million households expressed an interest in starting a garden plot near their home. Groups eligible to apply for funds in Inslee’s new grant program include community-development organizations, schools, state and local governments, tribal organizations and other groups. By encouraging these groups to construct gardens in their communities, Inslee’s bill will promote nutrition, environmental awareness, and neighborhood development.

On the same day the Community Gardens Act of 2009 was introduced, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) introduced a complementary resolution to designate August as “National Community Gardening Awareness Month.”

“I support the Community Gardens Act of 2009, as it will help Americans across the country establish new gardens and support those who want to take part in feeding their families and their communities,” Matsui said. “Community gardens are on the rise across the nation as Americans look to shrink their monthly grocery bills, introduce produce and more nutritious foods into their children’s diets, and as a way to create a connection between our communities and the food we feed our families.”

Encourage Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) to support this bill, and ask him to sign on as a co-sponsor. Also, write and ask Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to sponsor a similar bill in the U.S. Senate. Feel free to take things a step further and notify your state representative and senator that Alaska needs a similar bill using this legislation as a model.

Click here to e-mail Rep. Don Young.

Click here to e-mail Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Click here to e-mail Sen. Mark Begich.