J Community Health. 2022 Nov 6. doi: 10.1007/s10900-022-01152-x. Online ahead of print.
COVID-19 exacerbated existing disparities in food security in Chicago. Home gardening can improve food security but there are often barriers to participation and the benefits are understudied. Chicago Grows Food (CGF) formed in 2020 to address food insecurity during COVID-19, and created the Grow Your Groceries (GYG) program to provide home gardening kits to families at risk of food insecurity in Chicago. A participatory program evaluation was conducted to better understand the experiences of and benefits to individuals participating in GYG. Program participants shared feedback via focus groups (n = 6) and surveys (n = 72). Qualitative data were analyzed using an iterative coding process. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Most participants reported confidence in using a grow kit to grow food, increased healthy food consumption, easier access to healthy food, and high likelihood of growing food again. Additionally, participants described increased connections within their communities, increased interaction with their family, and personal growth as benefits of the program. These results demonstrate the benefits of a novel home gardening program that uses fabric grow bags to address food insecurity. A larger scale program evaluation is necessary to better understand the impacts of participating in this home gardening program.