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

Listed author(s):
  • Hale, James
  • Knapp, Corrine
  • Bardwell, Lisa
  • Buchenau, Michael
  • Marshall, Julie
  • Sancar, Fahriye
  • Litt, Jill S.
Registered author(s):

    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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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953611002267
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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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    1. Cummins, Steven & Curtis, Sarah & Diez-Roux, Ana V. & Macintyre, Sally, 2007. "Understanding and representing 'place' in health research: A relational approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(9), pages 1825-1838, November.
    2. Altschuler, Andrea & Somkin, Carol P. & Adler, Nancy E., 2004. "Local services and amenities, neighborhood social capital, and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(6), pages 1219-1229, September.
    3. Cattell, Vicky, 2001. "Poor people, poor places, and poor health: the mediating role of social networks and social capital," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(10), pages 1501-1516, May.
    4. Milligan, Christine & Gatrell, Anthony & Bingley, Amanda, 2004. "'Cultivating health': therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(9), pages 1781-1793, May.
    5. Laura Saldivar-tanaka & Marianne Krasny, 2004. "Culturing community development, neighborhood open space, and civic agriculture: The case of Latino community gardens in New York City," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 21(4), pages 399-412, January.
    6. Ray Forrest & Ade Kearns, 2001. "Social Cohesion, Social Capital and the Neighbourhood," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 38(12), pages 2125-2143, November.
    7. Carpiano, Richard M., 2006. "Toward a neighborhood resource-based theory of social capital for health: Can Bourdieu and sociology help?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 165-175, January.
    8. Jeffrey Lockwood, 1999. "Agriculture and biodiversity: Finding our place in this world," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 16(4), pages 365-379, December.
    9. Lauren Lautenschlager & Chery Smith, 2007. "Beliefs, knowledge, and values held by inner-city youth about gardening, nutrition, and cooking," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 24(2), pages 245-258, June.
    10. Cohen, Deborah A. & Finch, Brian K. & Bower, Aimee & Sastry, Narayan, 2006. "Collective efficacy and obesity: The potential influence of social factors on health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 769-778, February.
    11. Gesler, Wilbert M., 1992. "Therapeutic landscapes: Medical issues in light of the new cultural geography," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 34(7), pages 735-746, April.
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