Kris Soebroto, Program Director
707 NE Couch Street, Portland, OR 97232
Village Gardens builds neighborhood economic and food resilience through leadership development, employment opportunities, and a community-based food system model. Village Gardens works in partnership with community leaders to create additional opportunities for advancing equity in a community disproportionately impacted by poverty and hunger.
Village Gardens has roots in three North Portland low-income housing neighborhoods; Cathedral Gardens, Tamaracks and New Columbia. These neighborhoods are defined by some of the county’s highest poverty rates, large concentrations of non-English speaking residents and people of color, limited service infrastructure and limited access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. Residents have long been challenged by issues of food security and marginal community development. 69% of residents are people of color (26% is the average for all of Multnomah County). 83% of children and youth live in poverty. 46% of households are headed by single mothers. 42% of the population is under age 18. 75% of the community is eligible for SNAP benefits. 95% of children are on free or reduced lunch. Village Gardens has created a cohesive neighborhood-based food system that is in response to the need for all communities to have access to healthy and fresh food regardless of income. In parallel, Village Gardens provides the employment and leadership development that is a foundation for communities working to change the constraints and barriers they face.
Today Village Gardens offers over 80 garden plots to neighbors, cultivates a fruit orchard, raises chickens, supports a children’s garden program, provides cooking and nutrition support, employs youth and residents of North Portland affordable housing communities, sponsors a summer farmers market, supports emerging farmer businesses and provides a healthy corner grocery store in the neighborhood of New Columbia. As one of our founding community members used to say, “it may take a village to raise a child, but it only took one garden to unite our village.”
Food Works is a 2.5 acre, certified organic, youth-run entrepreneurial farm that sells produce at two local farmers markets and grocery stores, provides a wholesale size CSA to a local non-profit cafe serving folks experiencing homelessness and offers an additional 35 seasonal CSA shares for families. Food Works partners with the North Portland Health Clinic to provide 10 subsidized prescription CSA shares to clinic patients. Village Gardens also offers nutrition education, recipe sharing, and community kitchen sessions and demos to support CSA participant success.
Community Programs include 52,000 square feet of community-run organic gardens, a 10,000 square foot orchard, an organic egg project, community kitchens and a market gardeners initiative. These myriad programs are an ongoing avenue for community engagement and leadership.
Village Market is a neighborhood community-run grocery store stocked with organic produce, culturally appropriate food, and household items. The Market does not sell alcohol, tobacco products or lottery tickets and instead offers incentives for fresh produce and healthy pantry item purchases. The Market supports a seasonal Farmer’s Market that highlights neighborhood growers and vendors.
Together, the programs of Village Gardens model a thriving and collaborative community-led food system.