Last summer, Wen Lee and her husband Chris Stratton, had a surplus of vegetables growing in their garden.
The couple built what they call a “Share Shed” using donated paint from neighbors, scrap wood, and other material leftover from previous projects. The shed allows community members to take what they need for free, Lee said, as well as share produce and other goods to “build community.”
“Curious neighbors have come by to take a look and many have told us how much they like it,” she wrote on her blog. “Whenever we put veggies on the shelf they disappear within a couple days, which feels gratifying. It’s working.”
A neighbor volunteered to write Chinese characters on the sign to encourage Chinese-speaking residents to participate if interested. According to Census data, approximately 47 percent of Temple City’s estimated 36,084 residents are of Chinese descent.
The shed also has instructions printed on the side in both English and Chinese. They read, “Everything here is free! Take what you love; Donate what you don’t need.”
Exposing young children to community gardens and fresh produce makes them more likely to incorporate these foods into their diets as they get older, he noted.
While Asian diets traditionally have more plant-based foods, diets have changed in the past few decades to include more animal-based products, according to Wang. That can be a cause for concern due to a possible higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
Wang noted that Americans do not have enough fruits and vegetables in their diets, as intake is below the recommended amount. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in 10 adults meet federal fruit or vegetables recommendations.
Since its debut, the Share Shed has continued to receive positive feedback, Lee said. Some treat it as a “drive through” produce stand and young children often peek into the shed to see if there are any new offerings for the day.
According to Lee, people have donated everything from persimmons to a bag of guava, a batch of Hello Kitty cookies, and even an unused backpack.
She hopes to see more communities build something like a Share Shed, because she believes they can create healthier, happier, and safer neighborhoods.