Partners of the Plan News:
Access to Healthy Food through Joint Use Agreements

Dozens of cities and towns in Washington have set up shared use agreements to establish new community gardens. Agreements cover access to public land, use of the land and even use of water. Why are cities transforming public land into community gardens? The benefits of community gardens include improving access to affordable healthy food, improving physical activity and even building community ties as neighbors meet each other in the garden.

In Clark County, a new non-profit 501c3 organization, Americans Building Community is organizing neighborhood gardens in the neighborhoods along Fourth Plain Boulevard. Neighborhood gardens are located within a five minute walk with a wheelbarrow from gardeners places of residence. Led by husband and wife team Patti and Mark Maggiora, the organization developed four gardens together with the Fourth Plain Corridor Green Up Team over the last two years by developing joint use agreements with land owners, both private and public.

With hand-shake agreements for joint use of the land, the Maggiora’s ensure the sustainability of their projects by enrolling neighborhood residents and community volunteers from a variety of organizations and companies to do the actual work of building and planting the gardens. The first garden was a collaborative effort with the City of Vancouver and a private land owner. Subsequently, St. Johns IGA Supermarket offered land and the adjacent Laundry Love Laundromat volunteered to pay for the water. Down the street, Columbia Signs and Columbia River Mental Health have stepped up to host additional gardens. Patti Maggiora says, “At a time when resources appear more scarce and people are concerned about their future, it’s such a blessing to be part of collaborative efforts that create positive changes in our community. It’s so empowering for neighbors to work together with people volunteering from public, private, non-profit, and faith organizations to improve access to healthy food by providing creative places for residents to grow their own.”

Elspeth Durek, Chronic Disease Prevention Nutritionist at Clark County Public Health, described the garden project during her presentation at the 2011 Joint Conference on Health. She said, “We have been a partner in the process of creating these gardens and we helped to bring community members together to apply for a Walmart Foundation grant.” Since Clark County Public Health has a goal to improve neighborhoods to make them healthier and safer for families and children through connecting communities with needed resources, they signed a memorandum of understanding with Americans Building Community to guide future partnerships.

Americans Building Community continues to apply for grants to realize their goal of a neighborhood garden located in every neighborhood along the Fourth Plain corridor. Mark Maggiora says, “Clark County Public Health has taken this whole concept to the next level by establishing Partnerships for Healthy Neighborhoods, a deeper collaboration encouraging fuller participation across all sectors with any party that has a vested interest in the well being of the area. Fourth Plain stands ready to build and fulfill on its goals and dreams for the future.”

 

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