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Steelton Community Garden

In Steelton, Pennsylvania, a community garden helped a small, low-income town address issues like food security and access, nutritional education, physical and mental health needs, and so much more. This partnership was designed to help the Borough of Steelton provide fresh produce directly to their residents through plot ownership and collaborations with local food banks.

Like many underserved communities across the country, Steelton, a neighbor to the capital city of Harrisburg, is considered a food desert. There is no grocery store in town or within walking distance, and many residents rely on convenience stores for food shopping. 

Given these circumstances, residents are often forced to purchase pre-packaged goods that are ultra-processed and low in nutritional value. With little access to fresh local produce coupled with a lack of knowledge surrounding nutritional education, many families struggle with health conditions directly related to their diet. 

To eliminate these barriers, Mayor Ciera Dent and her team in Steelton had a vision for bringing the community together through the construction of a community garden at one of the public parks in town. 

With the help of their public works department and a team of volunteers, staff, and elected officials, the Steelton Community Garden at Mohn Street Park opened to the public on July 23, 2023. Residents had the opportunity to visit the garden space and select plots to reserve. With a majority of the garden beds dedicated to residents, community members can grow any crop that they desire. 

The other garden beds are maintained by Steelton and donated to local organizations and food banks. One resident, LaToya S., selected her garden plot because she could see it from her bedroom! LaToya said, “Last year was phenomenal with the abundance of cucumbers. I have grown with the love of the Community Garden.” 

We learned throughout this project that community gardens offer more than just food nourishment. They offer connection with our neighbors, serenity for our minds, and ways to promote self-sufficiency. Urban gardens provide residents with the ability to see the world differently, in a way that is sustainable and recession-proof for future generations.               --- Mayor Ciera Dent 

Over 50 pounds of produce was grown and distributed locally during the first year at the Steelton Community Garden. This year, the program will expand to include more residents, offer more instructional classes and educational opportunities, and collaborate with other local gardens to improve their offerings and serve their community more effectively.

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