To alleviate food insecurity among the low-income community in Billings by providing gardening opportunities; empowering people to gain the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to make healthy nutritional choices; and fostering a sense of community.
We envision a community in which all residents have access to nutrient-dense, wholesome foods; gardening opportunities; and community support.
According to the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity describes the reduction in food intake, quality, variety, or desirability due to financial or food access limitations.1 In Montana, 14.6% of people and 22.0% of children are food insecure. In Yellowstone County, MT, alone, 12% of people and 18.9% of children lack food security.23 Over fifty thousand Montana residents live in food deserts, which are regions without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.45 Not only is access to fresh, healthy food a major barrier for many in our community, but nutrition illiteracy also precludes people from preparing healthy meals. Poor nutritional options and choices lead to malnourishment and obesity, which are linked to a host of negative health consequences.
In conjunction with the Americorps Billings Metro VISTA Program (BMVP), the Housing Authority of Billings (HAB) established the Community Gardens Project in 2012 with the goal of alleviating food insecurity in the Billings low-income community. Since then, the Project has expanded to include three garden sites across Billings. The Project offers a bucket garden program to serve people with limited gardening space. It also provides educational resources and classes, including a children’s summer gardening program that aims to curb summer nutrition and learning loss. The HAB Community Gardens Projects believes that community gardens and community food security programs are essential to helping people save money, access affordable and nutritious food, learn valuable skills, and build a healthy community.
1. "Definitions of Food Security." Economic Research Service. USDA. 2014.
2. “Map the Meal Gap 2014: Overall Food Insecurity in Montana by County in 2014.” Feeding America. 2014.
3. "Map the Meal Gap 2014: Child Food Insecurity in Montana by County in 2014." Feeding America. 2014.
4. “Hungry in Montana: Factors Contributing to Emergency Food Needs. 2012 Client Hunger Survey.” Montana Food Bank Network. 2012.
5. "Food Deserts." Agricultural Marketing Service. USDA. 2014.
Whitetail Run Garden: Established in 2012, this 7,000 square-foot garden is located at the Whitetail Run Apartments in the Heights. It offers 50 plots for individuals/families, children, and communal use. It also features an herb bed, an Americans with Disability Act – approved bed, a fruit tree orchard, and a pumpkin patch. Located next to a park, this garden is the primary site for many of our summer events and parties. Location: Sioux Lane and Lake Elmo Drive
Pleasantview Garden: This garden, created in 2013, features 20 standing, raised beds for Pleasantview Apartments’ elderly population. Three in-ground community beds were also added in 2014 to offer residents strawberries, potatoes, rhubarb, and wildflowers. Location: 8th St West and Avenue D
St. Johns Garden: This garden began with two raised beds in 2013. Two additional beds were added in 2014. Residents at the St. Johns Apartments may communally harvest such vegetables as tomatoes, peas, pumpkins, salad greens, and flowers. Location: 10th St W and St Johns Avenue
Bucket Garden Program: Many people face space limitations when it comes to gardening. To accommodate such limitations, we offer HAB residents the opportunity to garden in compact buckets. Our “Bucketeers” receive without charge a bucket full of healthy soil, hand tools, gloves, a selection of seeds, and plant care guidelines.
Children's Summer Gardening Education Program: We provide kids the chance to learn about gardening, nature, and good nutrition while curbing summer learning loss. Began in the summer of 2014, the program reaches children at each garden site once a week from June to August.
Interested in Gardening?
If you are a resident with the Housing Authority or live close to one of our community gardens and would like a plot of your own, please fill out an application and send it to us. Please check back soon for details about 2015 applications!
Whitetail Run Garden (open to all, but tenants of the Whitetail Run and Pheasant Home Apartments prioritized)
Pleasantview Garden (open to Pleasantview tenants only)
St John's Garden (open to St. Johns tenants only)
Bucket Gardens (open to HAB clients only)
Are you an HAB client who is interested in having a garden established in your area? Please fill out this survey, return it to us, and you'll receive a free packet of seeds!
Interested in Volunteering?
We rely on the generous help of volunteers from our Billings community to help keep our gardens thriving. There are many ways to volunteer, so please don't be shy if you don't think you're a great gardener. We are seeking volunteers to help us with the following tasks:
- Providing basic garden maintenance (i.e. weeding, harvesting, helping with compost, etc.)
- Teaching classes to share gardening skills and knowledge
- Mentoring gardeners one-on-one
- Contributing to garden art beautification
- Event planning and organization
To volunteer, please fill out an application and send it to us, or feel free to contact us for more info. Volunteer Application
If you would like to attend or volunteer at one of our events or help volunteer at them, please contact us. Stay tuned for upcoming events in 2015, and check out a few of our key events from last year:
Please Contact Us With Interest, Questions, or Concerns:
Housing Authority of Billings
Community Gardens Project
Be sure to check out our facebook page!