In 2010, 53% of the city’s population lived in low-income neighborhoods without easy access to fresh food. Many of these neighborhoods lacked grocery stores and farmers markets, making residents more susceptible to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
The Solution: AgLanta Grows-A-Lot
City leaders and residents transformed vacant, blighted lots into urban gardens and food farms to increase access to healthy food. The city leased city-owned property to residents and provided training, public promotion, fundraising assistance, and other support to ensure their success.
How it Works
Residents and community groups applied to use city-owned property for urban agriculture projects. The city granted renewable five-year leases and technical support to winning applicants.
- City staff identified 10 sites in the city available for urban agriculture, totaling 25-acres, and created an online application process.
- Neighbors and staff from the city’s Office of Resilience flyered homes and hosted interactive events at each site to encourage applications and helped residents envision what the sites could become.
- The AgLanta Grows-A-Lot Community Advisory Committee reviewed applications and recommended winners. The committee consisted of five urban agriculturalists and two local food advocates, who also acted as program ambassadors.
- The city organized monthly AgLanta Academies that educated residents about topics such as developing crop plans, applying for permits, composting, and pest management. Each site hosted hands-on classes to learn how to grow food, prune fruit trees, support native bees, and more.
- The city and Hands On Atlanta also coordinated monthly volunteer opportunities at the sites.
- At the annual AgLanta Eats festival, organized by city staff and partner organizations, local chefs used produce from urban farmers and community gardens to make and sell food to attendees. The funds raised are used for grower’s insurance, soil analysis, and other expenses.
Citizens and community groups are now using acres of previously unused land in the city to produce healthy food for their communities. Today, the portion of the city’s population in low-income areas without access to healthy food has dropped to 36%.
- Residents have created four community gardens, many of which rent small plots to community members, and two urban farms, which sell their produce at farmers markets to Atlanta residents.
- Citizens and community partners have developed the Urban Food Forest at Brown Mills, a seven acre food forest that will produce nuts, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. The food forest serves as a workforce training site for young adults and residents of a nearby homeless center, hosting 50-100 volunteers per month.