One morning not so long ago on my way into work, I was stopped in the surgery foyer by a lady who offered me some free elderflower juice and a slice of delicious berry cake. As I worked my way through my breakfast, the lady told me about the ingredients of her offerings, grown on the very same premises of my work. I recall wondering how I never knew a garden existed here. Turns out it is part of Lambeth’s GP food co-operative, an innovative co-operative of patients, doctors, nurses and people living in Lambeth (especially ones with long term health conditions) who have created a food growing network. The scheme has built gardens in 11 GP surgeries and other sites where patients learn how to grow food in a safe and secure environment.
The physical effects of gardening are being well documented. According to The Kings Fund, being active in Green Spaces has been linked to reducing levels of obesity by increasing physical activity and reducing long-term conditions such as heart disease, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions. Furthermore, it is linked to self-reported levels of both physical and mental health, reducing levels of anxiety and isolation through the inclusion of communities, companionships, identity and a sense of belonging, not to mention the satisfaction of creating a garden and growing your own food.
As the medical profession slowly wakes up to providing alternative ideas and advice on improving health, local communities are already cultivating their crops. The Green Gym runs every week at Broadwater Farm Community Centre, where you can volunteer in the garden and take some produce home. Living Under One Sun is a community based allotment project near Tottenham Hale and focuses on food growing and healthy eating projects and there are many more in the pipeline. Tending to a garden or a small pot on our window can seem overwhelming but it can take as little as a few minutes a day and here is the thing. In nurturing the plants and the environment we live in, we get back so much more and bring balance back to our mental and physical self.
If anyone needs me, il be in the garden.