This project examines the connection between historical housing discrimination practices and community gardening in Cleveland, Ohio. A majority of community gardens within Cleveland exist on the east side of the city, the same area of the city that was considered undesirable for investors by Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC). The east side also houses the largest percentage of the Black population in Cleveland and was an area where Black people could purchase or rent and occupy property without problem.
HOLC’s discriminatory housing practices allowed for this area of the city to receive limited investment and has led Black citizens of Cleveland to have a disproportionate exposure to environmental bads, including poverty and hunger.
Community gardens come as a direct response to this disproportionate exposure. Many community gardens are grown on vacant land caused by discriminatory housing practices; this allows citizens to resist these policies and the environmental bads they cause.
They provide a space to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, allowing citizens to have access to healthy options they would not have access to otherwise. It also fosters self-sufficiency and agency; gardeners are able to plan, maintain and harvest their own plot to provide food for themselves and their family. They are no longer relying on produce from the grocery store or food bank. Furthermore, community gardens provide space to create connections within a neighborhood and allow for networking, resource-sharing and trust building. Community gardens are a just sustainability because they ensure hunger needs are being met without supporting systems that degrade the environment.