Mental health and food growing

30 April 2021 3 minute read

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Snaresbrook Primary School

Spending time outside is good for both mind and body. Find out how our Edible Playgrounds have supported both pupils and teachers during the pandemic.

As part of our work in schools, we build Edible Playgrounds - outdoor learning and food growing gardens. Aside from the physical health benefits that eating well brings, learning in an outdoor environment combats Nature Deficit Disorder and has been shown to increase mental health by boosting mood, confidence and self-esteem.

It’s lovely to hear that the Edible Playgrounds we’ve created have supported both pupils and teaching staff during the pandemic. We had a chat with some of the schools to see what the Edible Playground has meant for them in these testing times.

Snaresbrook Primary School in East London has had an Edible Playground since 2018. Teacher Lyndsey Clifton tells us the garden has been important for both children and staff’s wellbeing.

“Our EP has been an invaluable resource during the pandemic. During the first lockdown the EP was used by our key worker children on a daily basis for planting, growing, playing and a quiet calm space for reflection."

When the whole school was allowed back after lockdown measures were eased the EP was a great resource for all children and staff, especially for those who did not have access to a garden or green space. The sense of being somewhere which was ‘alive’ with flowers and vegetables growing and a haven for minibeasts proved a wonderful resource for mental well being.”

Lyndsey Clifton, teacher at Snaresbrook Primary School

At the Link School in Sunderland, the pupils created emotional well-being packs for other pupils and staff during the pandemic. They consisted of vegetables, flowers and berries grown in the garden, such as beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes and lavender.

The school is an alternative learning provider working with young learners and their families. It has a strong focus on emotional well-being and ensures that is an important part of the Link School for both pupils and staff. Their new Edible Playground is especially built to support the pupils who have a variety of additional and behavioural needs, and offers food growing opportunities as well as a dedicated sensory area which has many mental health benefits.

The Link 4
Link School

Reconnecting with nature

There are many benefits to reconnecting with nature - for both children and adults. Studies show that spending time in green spaces helps people relax and stress less. It’s also linked to better recovery from surgery, less anxiety and depression and many other positive effects.

In 2016, we worked with Maudsley Hospital, in South London to design a project that put this research into practice, aiming to give their service users the chance to benefit from spending time in nature and green spaces. We created a sensory therapeutic garden for two wards.

Collaborating with staff, we helped them to create a calming space to help patients alleviate feelings of anxiety and promote well being. Surroundings can have a big impact on well-being and recovery. Interacting with nature and spending time in a safe and tranquil place away from a ward can bring physical and mental health benefits. There are raised beds abundant with fruit and vegetables, while climbing thornless blackberries and hydrangeas provide privacy. A seating area offers a space to rest and socialise.

Hannah Oakenfold, a Ward Manager at the Maudsley Hospital, was delighted at the positive response she received and noted that staff and patients were getting involved in cultivating their edible garden:

“For both ward teams this has been a really exciting opportunity to offer patients somewhere outside of the ward where they can relax, get some fresh air, play games and also learn new skills that they can take with them when they leave.”

Hannah Oakenfold, Ward Manager at the Maudsley Hospital

Maudsley Courtyard Garden Iii 11Th July 2017
Maudsley Hospital

Do follow us on social media to get updates on our programmes, and see how the Edible Playgrounds - and pupils - are flourishing!

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