NHS Forth Valley and Stirling Community Enterprise partnered on the project Grow, Cook, Eat, in a brand-new community growing space in the grounds of the Old Kildean Hospital, benefitting young clients currently going through Employability or Home and Belonging programmes.
With NHS services coming under more pressure in recent years, it has become imperative to look for ways to help the community to live more healthy, active, and happier lives. Encouraging nutritious eating and activity outdoors is hugely beneficial to overall health, and being part of a group project can also have social, mental and wellbeing advantages.
“I feel calmer working in the growing space at the end of the day.” – Grow Cook Eat volunteer gardener
In 2021 the Public Health Nutrition team at NHS Forth Valley worked with Stirling Community Enterprise (SCE) to develop and deliver a new project focusing on these benefits. The Grow, Cook, Eat project saw a new community garden growing and learning space developed in the gardens of the Old Kildean Hospital on Drip Road. The building is a historic Category C listed building, and serves as a beautiful, calming space for the garden.
Raised beds were installed, perfect for growing a huge range of vegetables. SCE staff were also given practical REHIS accredited training by an NHS Forth Valley Community Food Development Worker to safely run regular cooking groups with confidence, making use of the fruit and vegetables produced in the garden. Local volunteers as well as clients from programmes working for Home and Belonging, and Employability.
A total of 25 young people took part in the growing and cooking over the project’s initial season, and a volunteer group was established to continue the growing. Five volunteers continue to attend the garden to work twice a week.
Other legacy growing facilities include composting, a young orchard, and an edible hedge. SCO use the space as an event area for community groups and other activities, and are happy to host visits to see and make use of their fantastic resources.
“I feel like eating after working in the garden.” – Grow Cook Eat volunteer gardener
Another aspect of the project that continues is the NHS Forth Valley – Grow and Cook website. Growing and cooking cards were created to list simple steps to grow ingredients, and then follow-on recipes make use of what has been grown. Resources are free and can be accessed by anybody.