This site was initially developed for Workshop Houston's Summer 2012 Program as a component of the course "The Science of Nutrition".

Nutrition 102: "Urban Gardening: Food Is a Political Statement"

What Is So Political about the Foods We Eat Anyway? 

Traditionally, if we want something to eat, we go to our refrigerators, pantries, local markets, or restaurants. The great majority of all that food that we eat is produced by someone else. Often, it is grown/manufactured in communities and countries outside of our own and then transported to local grocery stores and eateries where we buy them. Are these foods best for our health? What methods are used to preserve them until we purchase them, take them home, and eat them? Are the methods used to produce the foods we eat safe? How can we be sure? 

The short answer is: we can't be sure unless we produce some food for ourselves--and doing that bucks the system. It creates competition for the food industry and sends a message that consumers demand better quality and accessibility to the things that will sustain us. As free-thinking citizens, we are exercising our power to choose and acting upon it. Our choices force food producers to change their business practices while getting the attention of the lawmakers who represent us in government. That's political. In our free-market system, producers only supply what consumers demand. But, it is even possible to start growing at least some of our food?

What Is Urban Gardening?

Urban gardening is simply the practice of growing food in non-rural areas. Whether you reside in an apartment, townhouse, or a single-family home, it is possible to grow some of the foods you eat yourself. Here are two organizations that can teach you how to do it on any scale.

Growing Power

History: In 1993, Growing Power was an organization with teens who needed a place to work. Will Allen was a farmer with land.

Will designed a program that offered teens an opportunity to work at his store and renovate the greenhouses to grow food for their community. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems.

Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a ”living museum” or “idea factory” for the young, the elderly, farmers, producers, and other professionals ranging from USDA personnel to urban planners. Training areas include the following: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, permaculture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth education, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning.
Growing Power

Aquaponics: Fish Farming at Growing Power

Tavis Smiley interviews Will Allen, Founder of Growing Power (a farm and community center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and co-author of The Good Food Revolution. Have a listen!

An example of a creative urban gardening solution: *Courtesy of

    Recycled Hanging Garden Planter
    Here’s what you’ll need to make one:
  • Tools and materials 2L soda bottle
  • Duct tape
  • Razor
  • Hole puncher
  • Thick twine or thin rope
  • Drill or something to poke hole in bottle cap 
 What are some everyday items that you could use for gardening?
A Hoop House Is a Portable Green House 

My Backyard Garden

Preparing a new 2' x 4' box for planting

A 4' x 4' raised bed garden for herbs

This shepherd's hook holds an inverted planter and hanging basket.

Wide shot that includes a round flower bed

Tomato plants on the patio
A mix of planters including plastic, terra cotta, and tupperware

Genetically-Modified Foods: Corn, Soybeans, Wheat

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