Even though the wind is blowing, and the snow is swirling madly about the cold winter skies, the Our Food team is busy planning for another exciting growing season ahead. This year we are thrilled to be rolling out an initiative called the Growing Seniors’ Accessibility Project (GSAP). The project will involve a mix of food and garden skills development opportunites, as well as a strong focus on health and community capacity building for seniors. It is set to take place in the Bayers Westwood community in Halifax, and in the Cheticamp region of Cape Breton. Funding has generously been provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors, Positive Aging Grant.
Many of the gardens we work with already have strong participation by older residents and seniors, but we have recognized that there are many physical and social barriers involved in more seniors participating in food and garden programming. At the HUGS Community Garden in Halifax, we’ve already begun improving the physical infrastructure of the garden by building a couple waist-high raised beds for older gardeners. Both Halifax and Cheticamp gardens intend to continue to upgrade their infrastructure to be more seniors friendly in the spring of 2015.
But beyond that, we are excited to have funding to pay for staff time to coordinate activities and programs specifically aimed at engaging seniors in the garden and in mobilizing food skills associated with fresh, healthy produce. We anticipate that having coordinators in each location will greatly enhance the participation of seniors in these communities. The goals of the project are multi-faceted. Seniors are often vulnerable to food insecurity due to poverty,poor health, limited mobility and a host of other factors. By increasing their participation in community gardens, we hope to contribute to their food security by making it easier to access good quality food.
Social isolation is also a serious concern for the elderly. Seniors often have limited interaction with the outside world. Through food and garden programming, we plan on bringing seniors from all backgrounds together to share their food and garden knowledge across culture and generation. Wherever possible, we hope integrate youth into the programming to help with some of the heavy lifting, and to learn from their elders through inter-generational exchange opportunities. The transmission of food and garden knowledge from one generation to the next is key to a food secure future.
We also see the seniors’ food and garden programs as an important contributor to the health and wellness of our respective seniors communities. Beyond the health benefits of fresh food, the recreational benefits of the gardening ensure our seniors are keeping active and staying fit. The therapeutic benefits of gardening are also well-known. We believe the program will have as many physical health benefits as it will mental health benefits. After all, gardening is about so much more than just growing food. It’s about growing community, confidence, leadership and friendships too.
We’re excited for the season ahead, and looking forward to engaging our seniors in helping to create positive food environments in their communities. If you would like more information about the project, and how to get involved you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the Halifax project, and email@example.com for the Cheticamp project.
Author: Will Fawcett Hill. Community Food Programmer, The Our Food Project. Ecology Action Centre.