Growing people: MindFood
Gardeners everywhere know the benefits of getting outside, getting their hands into the earth and, when the right time comes, enjoying the fruits of their labours. Working with the seasons rather than against them has a calming and grounding effect that can reduce worrying about life stresses by keeping in touch with nature. People who regularly work their gardens often have an aura of contentment about them that non-gardeners envy.
With the benefits of gardening being so obvious, the idea of helping people with mental illness by providing the opportunity to grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers has taken hold in recent years. It gives continuity to disrupted lives, provides a regular focus, increases social contact with others, and literally fosters growth and change.
Ecotherapy, as it is sometimes known, has been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from anxiety and depression. Charities such as Mind operate schemes across the UK. Aside from the major mental health charities, social enterprises with similar aims are springing up at a community level.
MindFood is a social enterprise in West London, England that supports people to improve their wellbeing through growing and selling food. It aims to provide opportunities for people who have mental health issues and/or feel they are of little worth to participate, achieve and literally see the fruits of their own labour. MindFood runs a market garden in Ealing, and offers a range of therapeutic, nature-based courses that help people to manage and improve their wellbeing.
Growing Wellbeing is a 6-week course that focuses on the 5 ways to wellbeing in a food-growing environment. It is action-oriented with weekly discussions and planning plus a focus on one of the 5 practical steps to improve mental health and happiness: Connect, Take Notice, Learn, Give and Be Active.
Plot to Plate is a 12-week course with two sessions a week in which participants get involved in MindFood’s Grow to Sell project. Selling the veg in the local community fosters social interaction and helps participants learn transferable skills.
MindFood founder Ciaran Biggins is an experienced fundraiser who has recently completed a year on the Lloyds Banking Group School for Social Entrepreneurs startup programme. After years raising funds for the NSPCC, Scope and the Teenage Cancer Trust, he has now dedicated himself to MindFood, a social enterprise that not only grows food, but grows people.
Follow MindFood on Twitter at @MindFoodCIC