My dream is to tackle the homelessness crisis in the United States with the GEAR Program by developing community gardens for the homeless and economically disadvantaged which supports Sustainable Development Goal #2 on Zero Hunger.
The United States is a melting pot, a mecca for food lovers, the country where you can live out your rags to riches story and live the ultimate work hard, play hard lifestyle. While I can’t completely denounce that, the sad truth is this is not so attainable for the homeless population.
In fact, people who are homeless have higher rates of illness and on average, die 12 years sooner than the general U.S. population. This is because homelessness creates new health problems and exacerbates existing ones including malnutrition, respiratory conditions, diabetes, mental illnesses, and substance use. A healthy diet is also difficult to keep because in soup kitchens and shelters, meals are usually high in salt, sugars, and starch.
In many ways, community gardens can be what we’ve been needing all along!
First, they increase access to fresh and nutritious foods, increase physical activity, beautify parks and communities, improve mental health, reduce crime, promote economic opportunities and work experience, and foster connections and social well being. To make this happen we can partner with homeless shelters, public parks, community centers, schools, stores, and private donors.
We can issue tax deduction benefits, give everyone access to fresh produce and educational materials, and provide volunteer and internship opportunities. This can offer nutritious food at a better price than at the grocery store, help the environment, and ensure everyone has something productive to do. Working with nature can provide a fresh start for the homeless and economically disadvantaged! We can help tackle the issue with the acronym GEAR – Generosity, encouragement, awareness, relationships! Let’s give everyone, everywhere the fresh start they deserve.