Eddy Oketch

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There are various community gardens in Hartford engaging different local communities on diverse social issues. While a few are privately owned, most are run and managed by different community-based organizations and institutions with interests in different issues affecting their respective local communities. The major unifying reason across them, however, is engaging local communities to promote healthy food practices. This is especially true among low-income neighborhoods. Among these local communities in Hartford, there exists a group of young people hailing from diverse families who are disadvantaged. This disadvantage is particularly depicted in high youth unemployment rates and limited possibilities for continuing with tertiary education for this very same group. This project therefore explores the possibility of scaling-up community gardens in Hartford to provide sustainable employment, or livelihood opportunities, to this group of youth, quite separate from promoting healthy food practices. It adopts a three-prong research approach: Engaging literature on at-risk youth, community gardens and social entrepreneurship; conducting interviews with stakeholders running different programs that engage the youth in Hartford; and conducting interviews with the youth involved in those outreach programs to identify both this group’s motivations for joining the programs and their life goals. Both sets of information can help determine whether the different individuals are “at risk” or not. The research then analytically compares the stakeholder program models to the findings in the literature, and identifies the results achieved in the programs in relation to the participants’ own goals for joining them. This comparison can then identify important opportunities for reconsidering how youth can interact with community garden programs. The literature on social entrepreneurship will assist in unlocking the potential for adopting, or re-scaling, such ideas as corporate social entrepreneurship to community gardens.


Community Partner: Hartford Food System