We have established food co-ops, school fruit tuck shops, encouraged convenience stores to sell more fresh food, supported unemployed people into work, regenerated community gardens. In 2012, we expanded our remit to projects in the criminal justice sector.
One of the many projects we are proud of is Greening Communities, a project that supports communities in transforming areas of wasted land on their social housing estates into new community gardens for all to use and enjoy.
We identify underused land and then engage with the local tenants to set up a group that can take the lead in establishing a community garden in that location, as a place to sit and chat, for children to play in a safe environment, to meet neighbours, and to grow fruit and vegetables with zero food miles.
Green spaces have shown to be hugely influential in improving health and well-being and were particularly important during the COVID 19 restrictions. Sadly, these spaces are in decline in the UK because of large-scale construction projects and urban sprawl, with more deprived communities ending up with even less access to green space.
In our business plan for Greening Communities, we made the case for urban green space before getting into project specifics. This context was really important as there is a lot of evidence for the many benefits – in health and wellness, healthcare cost savings, community cohesion, boosting local biodiversity and in helping London adapt to climate change.
Community gardens can also contribute to reducing social isolation. They provide places for people to socialise with their peers and neighbours, reducing feelings of loneliness. A similar community garden project targeting refugees and asylum seekers found that the garden became a social centre for service provision, from physical and phycological therapy to practical assistance with housing and legal protection.
It is important to reach out to tenants and residents to fully engage and involve them in the design, planting, use, maintenance and management of their garden for food and plant growing and safe spaces for children to play. Without this level of involvement, community gardens like these will not thrive.