A new study has shown that community food growing can improve people’s overall fitness and healthy eating, alleviate the symptoms of mental illness, and help cancer sufferers cope with the distressing effects of their treatment.
The authors undertook a review of international scientific research demonstrating the benefits of gardening and community food growing for physical and mental wellbeing.
They are now calling on health professionals to put community food growing ‘on prescription’, for the many health benefits this would achieve.
Growing Health, a charitable initiative helping community food growing projects to demonstrate their benefits and persuade GPs and local health services to invest in the support and services they can provide.
“For the large number of people in our society – children and adults – who live with challenging physical or mental health problems, gardening and community food growing can be especially beneficial,” said Professor Tim Lang, chair of the Growing Health conference.
“Such activities can relieve the symptoms of serious illnesses, prevent the development of some serious conditions, reduce stress and introduce people to a way of life that can help them to improve their own well-being in the longer term.”
The Growing Health organisers have reviewed many working examples of GPs and health professionals already using community food growing to treat physical and mental health conditions.
One example is Sydenham Gardens in South London, founded by local residents and a local GP to provide gardening, nature conservation and creative opportunities for local people.
“This important new study of the evidence for the benefits of gardening and community food growing is a call to action for health professionals,” said Maria Devereaux, Growing Health project officer.
“Pioneering action, already piloted by local GPs and health authorities, to put gardening and food growing ‘on prescription’ should now be recognised and replicated throughout the NHS, and local authority planners should protect and create food growing spaces, for the benefit of everyone.”