There has been a marked increase in awareness of the connection between diet, the environment, and health. One response to this has been the proliferation of community gardens, yet research on the impact of such interventions is scant. Evaluation targeting measurable outcomes has the ability to determine the validity of these projects, which would insure longevity. However, programs that have never undergone formal evaluation beg the question, “to what extent is the program ready to be evaluated?” Evaluability Assessments (EA) are one tool used to answer this question as well as assist with the development of instruments intended to measure the program’s impact.
The B-Street Permaculture Project, “engage[s] participants in community building, research, and demonstration for the purpose of providing the impetus for sustainable practices in the Forest Grove community.” This project performed an EA of the B-Street Permaculture Project with the goal of developing, or identifying, an instrument(s) to measure the impact of the program on participants.
The process included open-ended interviews of B-Street staff, volunteers, supporters, and key stakeholders. Participants were asked about program goals and objectives including current indicators of success, program design with major activities, descriptions of the variety of visitors to the program, and any data that was currently being collected. A review of the literature on community gardens was also conducted.
Through the EA, this project hypothesizes two theoretical positions for such programs: Biophilia (connection to place) and Theory of Planned Behavior (the intention to change a behavior precedes behavior modification). The literature suggests that both theories contribute to healthier living through stress reduction, improved food choices, and increased social capital.
Two groups of freshmen students at Pacific University were identified and have participated in regular, weekly activities at B-Street during their fall semester. These activities hold the potential to measure the outcomes associated with the identified theories. Non-participating freshmen students will be used as a comparison group. A survey will be administered at the end of the semester where we hypothesize that the participant group will exhibit greater levels of impact across key domains of health. This project also proposes to repeat the survey at the end of the spring semester in hopes of answering questions around effect and dosage. Summer of 2011 will be focused on collecting, analyzing, and reporting results.
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