11:00pm January 2, 2012

Street Garden Thefts on the Rise


Perhaps as a byproduct to tough economic times, there has been a recent influx of thefts at thousands of community gardens that have sprouted up nationwide at the behest of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.

In Boston,  for example, thieves robbed harvest from several of its 3,500 plots across a span of 150 community gardens.  Community gardens have popped up and been robbed in New York CityChicago, Wichita, KansasMichigan and other areas. Most garden plots are available for free or a very modest price for low income residents of urban communities, but enterprising thieves don’t want to bother doing the hard work and would rather just pilfer others’ hard earned crops.

The problem of community garden theft has been so pervasive, some online sites like EcoLife have set up webpages to instruct community garden organizers how to fight back.  The University of Missouri put together a free toolkit for fighting garden theft.

Betsy Johnson, president of the South End/Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust and a board member of the American Community Gardening Association, told Boston.com that the bigger the fruit or vegetable, the more likely it is to be stolen. She said pumpkins and beefy tomatoes are more enticing than spinach or Swiss chard.

Her group advised community gardeners to avoid planting tempting fruits and veggies on the edges and to veil them in the thicker foliage of less popular plants.

“It’s a problem that has worsened with the economy,’’  Paul Sutton, coordinator for open space and director of urban wilds at the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees five community gardens told Boston.com. “I hear about people picking tomatoes and squash in the middle of the night. It happens all the time.’’

Theft from urban gardens peak at harvest time as fruit and vegetables reach their final stages.

Community groups, churches, civic organizations and city and town governments set up these gardens as a direct result to the absence of grocery stores that sell fresh produce in many low income neighborhoods.

The Center of Urban Economics at the University of Texas has hypothesized that grocery store execs avoid building in low income neighborhoods out of fear they wouldn’t be economically stable.  Certainly, concerns about crime and theft may also factor into the decisions.   In one study organized by the Center, it mapped a county in Texas and noted no poor neighborhoods had grocery stores within one mile compared to more affluent neighborhoods that had three or more.

Findings like that pose a problem considering a 1999 study which showed that one third of low-income respondents shop within a mile of their home and another third within one to four miles.

Therefore, those without automobile transportation are stuck buying groceries from local corner stores and bodegas with limited options of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Access to healthy foods is key to curbing the obesity epidemic in Black communities, especially around the holidays.  For the entire nation, conventional knowledge is that most people gain from five to ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.  A 2010 study, challenged that notion, pointing out that that extra weight accumulates through the years and may be a major contributor to obesity later in life.

According to government statistics, more than half of all adult Americans are overweight, as defined by body mass index, said Jack A. Yanovski, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator and head of the joint study by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

“The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the past decade,” Dr. Yanovski said.  Weight gain during adulthood may contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health problems.

Fruits and veggies are keen for staving off obesity. Organic foods, which some studies say are best, can be expensive.  Growing your own pesticide and insecticide free food in a community garden would be a great alternative.

Further, spoils from a FREE community garden harvest could combat childhood obesity.  Children who eat fresh organic foods are better off, research says.  A study  from the University of Washington in Seattle found that preschoolers fed conventional diets had six times the level of certain pesticides in their urine as those who ate organic foods.  With infant reproductive organs still forming and the brain developing through age twelve, with young livers and immune systems less able to rid bodies of contaminants, eating organic is more important for children and pregnant or breast-feeding women.

Ordinarily, only those who can afford to purchase these types of foods would benefit.

Truly, community gardens would be an ideal way for those who cannot afford organic fruits and veggies … which usually cost more money.

CommunityGarden.org states that there are 18,000 community gardens in the United States and provides information and tips on starting a garden in a community, or locating one and learning how to participate.


About the Author

Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt represents small, women, and minority owned business and technology companies at The Ghatt Law Group LLC, the nations’ first communications law firm owned by women and minorities. She's won landmark cases on behalf of her clients which include national civil rights and public interest organizations. In addition to actively authoring several blogs, being a radio show host and sitting on the boards of three non-profits, she is a tech junkie who has been developing online web content since the very early years of the Internet, 1991 to be precise! Follow her on Twitter at @Jenebaspeaks, on her blog, Jenebaspeaks, which covers the intersection of politics and technology or on her Politics of Raising Children blog at The Washington Times Communities section. The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and have complete editorial independence from any Politic365 partners, sponsors, or advertisers. For additional information about Politic365, please visit http://politic365.com/about/.



Walmart Wage Increase Likely to Start New Trend Toward Pay Equity

Better schedules, more training, and a wage increase up to $10.00 per hour – that’s what Walmart workers can expect beginning on April 1. Last month, the world’s largest retailer announced that it was raising...
by Kristal High


Protecting and Advancing Florida’s Position as a Technology Leader

By David Grain, Founder and Managing Partner, Grain Management, LLC In the aftermath of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) historic vote on net neutrality, policymakers in Washington will continue to debate how to ...
by Guest Contributor


Open Carry Gun Laws Won’t Work for Black People Until Racial Bias Abates

Earlier this year, video went viral of a 62-year-old Black grandfather being chocked and tackled by three White men in Florida, an open carry gun state, after one of them saw a gun in his waistband and assumed he was a criminal...
by Brandon Patterson



Respect President Obama’s Office, If Not the Man

By: Catherine E. Pugh, Majority Leader, Maryland State Senate; President National Black Caucus of State Legislators Rudy Giuliani stands in a long line of those who think it is okay to degrade this President.  Never in the hi...
by Guest Contributor


An Open Letter from a Black Man to the Muslim Community

Dear Muslim Americans, I stand with you. I hear you and I stand with you because I know. I know what it’s like to feel rejected, to be hated.  I know what it’s like to feel unsafe, like a target.  To wonder if you or some...
by Brandon Patterson



  1. [...] Street Garden Thefts on the Rise Weight gain during adulthood may contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health problems. Fruits and veggies are keen for staving off obesity. Organic foods, which some studies say are best, can be expensive. Growing your own pesticide … Read more on Politic365 [...]

  2. virtually anything related to gardening is at risk: power tools, statues, plants, furniture. The Telegraph records an incident of an entire hedge being removed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>