Study shows benefits of community gardening for health and wellbeing

A new study on 'The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing' from charity Growing health 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 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.

Tthe study will be launched at a conference for health professionals and food growing project organisers, today in London, organised by 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.

Conference chair Professor Tim Lang said: "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.

"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, whose organisers will share their experiences at the conference, 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. Patients are referred to the project through their GP or key worker.

Growing Health project officer Maria Devereaux said: "This important new study of the evidence for the benefits of gardening and community food growing is a call to action for health professionals. 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."

The Growing Health conference will feature inspiring case studies of food growing ‘on prescription’, and a presentation from Joe Sempik of the University of Nottingham on how food growing projects can measure their benefits to prove their worth to the health service.

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