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Connecting food environments and health through the relational nature of aesthetics: Gaining insight through the community gardening experience

  • Hale, James
  • Knapp, Corrine
  • Bardwell, Lisa
  • Buchenau, Michael
  • Marshall, Julie
  • Sancar, Fahriye
  • Litt, Jill S.
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    Current environmental and health challenges require us to identify ways to better align aesthetics, ecology, and health. At the local level, community gardens are increasingly praised for their therapeutic qualities. They also provide a lens through which we can explore relational processes that connect people, ecology and health. Using key-informant interview data, this research explores gardeners' tactile, emotional, and value-driven responses to the gardening experience and how these responses influence health at various ecological levels (n = 67 participants, 28 urban gardens). Our findings demonstrate that gardeners' aesthetic experiences generate meaning that encourages further engagement with activities that may lead to positive health outcomes. Gardeners directly experience nearby nature by 'getting their hands dirty' and growing food. They enjoy the way vegetables taste and form emotional connections with the garden. The physical and social qualities of garden participation awaken the senses and stimulate a range of responses that influence interpersonal processes (learning, affirming, expressive experiences) and social relationships that are supportive of positive health-related behaviors and overall health. This research suggests that the relational nature of aesthetics, defined as the most fundamental connection between people and place, can help guide community designers and health planners when designing environment and policy approaches to improve health behaviors.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 72 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 11 (June)
    Pages: 1853-1863

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:11:p:1853-1863
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