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 alongside residents of Oregon’s largest affordable housing neighborhood to build community power by growing and sharing food, learning and teaching skills and empowering community leadership. Working in partnership with neighborhood residents through urban gardens and a neighborhood market, Village Gardens uses a community-centered model to address food security, improve neighborhood living conditions, increase youth and adult leadership opportunities and build transferable job skills. Today, VG offers 75 free garden plots through 43,000 square feet of community run organic gardens, cultivates a community orchard with over 50 fruit trees, employs 17 youth/adult low-income residents, and operates a healthy grocery store, Village Market. For 19 years, VG’s alternative and innovative approaches to hunger relief have provided diverse, low-income North Portland families with equitable and affordable access to buy or grow healthy and culturally relevant food.
Village Gardens has roots in North Portland low-income housing neighborhoods that 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 responds 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. 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.”