Alternative food programs have been proposed as solutions to food insecurity and diet-related health issues. However, some of the most popular programs—farmers markets and community-supported agriculture—overwhelmingly serve White and upper-middle-class individuals, exacerbating food security and health disparities. One explanation for the mismatch is the way in which alternative food programs are framed: Language used to encourage participation may reflect priorities of upper-middle-class and White populations who create and run these programs while lacking resonance with food-insecure populations. This literature, however, lacks consideration of how lower-cost, more participatory programs—community gardens—are framed. We therefore explore the framing of community gardens through a quantitative content analysis of the descriptions, missions, and goals provided by community garden managers across Minnesota ( N = 411).
Six frames were consistently present in the community garden statements: greater good, community orientation, healthy food access, food donation, self-empowerment, and symbolic food labels. Greater good and community orientation were significantly more likely to be used than any other frames.
Taken together, our findings suggest that community gardens may be welcoming toward a diversity of participants but still have room to improve the inclusivity of their frames. The common use of a community orientation suggests the unique ability of community gardens among alternative food programs to benefit Black, Latino, and working-class populations. However, the most common frame observed was “greater good,” suggesting one mechanism through which community gardens, like other types of alternative food programs, may be reproducing inequality through alienation of food-insecure populations.