The Ruth Bennett Community Farm is a collaboration between residents of the Ruth L. Bennett Homes in Chester, PA, Urban Tree Connection and students at Swarthmore College.
Environmental injustice is one of the most serious issues threatening the city of Chester. Environmental injustice is the disproportionate concentration of environmental hazards in communities of color and low-income communities. The city is 65% African American, the highest percentage in the state of Pennsylvania, and the median per capita income is $13,000. 90% of all toxic chemical and criteria air pollutants released in Delaware County are from Chester area sources. Because of this and other reasons Chester’s mortality rate and a lung cancer mortality rates are about 60% higher than the rates for Delaware County; it has the highest infant mortality rate in the state of Pennsylvania.
Environmental justice, on the other hand, asserts that every person, regardless of race, class, nation or other variables, has the right to a healthy and safe environment. Part of this vision of a healthy living environment is access to food. The majority of Chester residents must travel significantly out of their way to access fresh produce; currently, the sole source of fresh produce in Chester is a small (but growing!) grocery cooperative. Many residents simply rely on the heavily processed and non-nutritious groceries that are more easily available in the city.
The Chester Garden Project stemmed from conversations with Chester community leaders and residents who have expressed their concerns about this lack of fresh food. A community garden seemed to be a feasible and appropriate project given the situation.
Visit our Vimeo page at http://www.vimeo.com/chestergardenproject