Health promotion through community food growing

We’re currently working in partnership with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) on a project funded through the Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group. This health focused project, Q-Gardens, is centred on food growing but there is more to it than just fruit and vegetables…

Groundwork and RBH are working with local volunteers to create a community food growing site on an unused piece of land in Kirkholt, Rochdale. Whilst the changes to the land are impressive, this is not the primary focus of the work – it is in the increased physical activity, knowledge and social connectivity of those that volunteer where the important changes lie.

Q Gardens planting

The goal:

  • To build the capacity of individuals and the community to recognise the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and to take control of their own health.
  • To demonstrate the physical and social benefits of a cooperative approach to food production and the impact on individuals health and wellbeing.

The theory:

A great deal of research has been done into the positive effects of food growing, not only in terms of the physical health benefits but also the impact of stronger social networks. There are also well evidenced links between improved mental health and the mutual support green space sites like Q-Gardens can offer. This project will build on Groundwork’s past experience of projects that improve people’s health such as Growing for Health, Practical Countryside Skills and Ranger 4 a Day. Facilitated community projects have the potential to aid rehabilitation and provide a network of informal preventative support measures. Q-Gardens will put this to the test over the coming months…

Bean poles in planterIn practice:

As I write this blog the Groundwork and RBH teams are working with local volunteers digging, planting and sowing crops of fruits and vegetables. Many of the volunteers suffer from ill health and have been referred onto the project by local GP’s and health practitioners. Over a 6 months period the project team will support the volunteers to create a community garden whilst monitoring the health impact of the work they carry out.

It is our plan that as the project grows, so will its reach – linking in with other local food growing sites to share learning and increase local capacity. These will offer rehabilitation and prevention support for community members and ultimately lead to a reduced reliance on community health care services. Q-Gardens will also include an assessment into the feasibility of developing models for food co-operatives both within and across neighbourhoods.

I’m really excited to see the results and learning that Q Gardens will provide and how this will inform future developments in community health based provision. It is about working with communities to develop a clear understanding of the barriers faced in relation to making healthy lifestyle choices and creating opportunities that address that need.

Weekly sessions at Q Gardens run every Wednesday 11am-3pm. We’re keen to engage any Rochdale resident who may benefit from being involved. For more information or to make a referral call Gemma Russell on 0161 624 1444 or text 07990 552 748.

As the project develops, I will update on the changes that take place through this blog… watch this space.

By Paul Howes, Business Development Manager at Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale.



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