Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Mary C. Secret

Second Advisor

Patrick V. Dattalo

Third Advisor

Elizabeth M.Z. Farmer

Fourth Advisor

Meghan Z. Gough


Study purpose. The study examined race and racial diversity in community gardens located in Southern urban food deserts, as well as the capacity of community gardens to generate social capital and promote social justice. Methods. A mixed-methods approach was used to describe characteristics of gardeners and community gardens located in urban food deserts, and test Social Capital Theory hypotheses. A convenience sample of 60 gardeners from 10 community gardens was obtained. Data was collected using surveys and semi-structured interviews. Analyses. Univariate and bivariate statistics were used to describe gardeners and gardens. Leader rationales for garden characteristics were analyzed using thematic analysis. Cross-level analyses were used to examine individual and organizational characteristics on gardeners’ social capital in multivariate regression models. Results. Gardeners were racially diverse across the sample; however most community gardens were racially segregated. The majority of gardeners also appeared to be middle-class. This study indicated that community gardens could indirectly enhance community food security, largely through the efforts of people of color, and less so directly as few gardeners involved were food insecure. Community gardens also exhibited limited potential to advance social justice, based on the few resources that could potentially be exchanged between gardeners. Implications. This study calls for: greater dialogue around gentrification concerns; the development of culturally appropriate engagement sensitive to historical trauma rooted in slavery; increased focus on entrepreneurial opportunities; and, obtaining the missing voices – those from non-participating low-income residents – to better understand how to create community gardens located in food deserts that benefit multiple communities.


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