Thursday, July 4, 2013

Harvesting Happiness at the Hospital

EYA’s vision of promoting health through gardening has taken root at BC Childrens and Womens Hospital. Since breaking ground in spring 2013, The Environmental Youth Alliance has installed a comprehensive therapeutic food garden that serves five programs within Mental Health, including child and adolescent psychiatry, eating disorders and addictions services. 

Hello, my name is Spinach. Bundles of spinach were grown this spring by teenagers in the Adolescent Psychiatry program to share with staff, parents and to add to their own salads.

To date, over 150 staff and patients have participated in planting, maintaining and successfully harvesting fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers that are making their way into patient programs. Hum drum hospital meals are feeling the pressure from the new kid in town: garden fresh food grown and harvested by patients themselves!

The garden features a flowing pathway connecting shared spaces and individual hospital program plots. The west wing of the space is pictured here.

 “Today we harvested fresh sugar snap peas and a garden herb dip. It was DILLiscious!” says Julia Thiessen, EYA Program Coordinator. “Harvesting lavender and using it in crafts with psychiatric patients invoked a sense of awareness and place. Before we knew it, patients were found doing their own lavender harvests and giving it away as gifts. It’s great to see this garden become a source of so much generosity and love,” says Alaina Thebault, EYA Program Coordinator.

Lavender wands lovingly crafted.

The therapeutic benefits of gardening are not going unnoticed, as one nursing staff put it, “I can’t help but notice the new smiles on people’s faces.”

Funding for this pilot project has been provided by the Provincial Health Services Authority as a part of their food security initiative. A project with such a new approach requires significant time and community-wide collaboration. To continue to flourish, further financial support will be needed going into 2014. Thiessen says, “We hope to continue enriching the healing experience at the hospital to include things we all know are important; simple things like getting outside and connecting to the natural world.” 

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