Community gardening project helps fight loneliness

A PROJECT that helps people grow their own fruits and vegetables helps fight loneliness.

Get Out More CIC and its Edible Streets project are one of many local groups across the UK who have stepped up to support people feeling isolated during this difficult time.

The project, which has received nearly £9,000 in National Lottery funding to bring people together by making gardening accessible to older residents, is highlighted by the National Lottery Community Fund during National Awareness Week to loneliness.

The fund focused on how local charities and community groups have helped tackle social isolation in their area.

Over the past five years, almost £700m of National Lottery funding has been distributed to charities working to tackle loneliness and social isolation and to build connections and relationships.

In Yorkshire and the Humber alone, 318 projects have received a share of more than £13.4million in National Lottery funding since the start of the pandemic to tackle the problem.

Money received by Keighley-based Get Out More has enabled the project to provide gardening supplies, planters, compost, seeds, plants and fruit trees to budding gardeners in deprived areas of Keighley.

Weekly tours have helped local residents aged 55 to 90 grow their own fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs in gardens or hanging and wall baskets where outdoor space is limited.

The gardening sessions helped create a shared interest among neighbors, sparking conversations that brought the community together. Sessions were held both with individual households and with socially distanced group sessions – planting hanging baskets with flowers and herbs.

Participants are encouraged and helped to grow all kinds of produce, including pear and cherry trees, currants, potatoes, green beans, rhubarb, strawberries, nasturtiums and lavender, as well as herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano and sage.

Loneliness affects people across the country, in both urban and rural communities. According to the National Lottery Community Fund’s latest Community Research Index – a survey of over 7,000 people across the UK – almost half of those polled said that battling loneliness and isolation is a important priority for the coming year.

Meanwhile, recent research reveals the number of people in the UK who feel ‘often’ or ‘always’ lonely has jumped by more than a million since last year – from 2.6 million to 3, 7 million.

Annie Berrington, Managing Director of Get Out More CIC, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to bring people together through gardening, allowing them to share common experiences with their neighbours, while learning to grow their own produce and spend time outdoors. improve their physical and mental well-being.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Get Out More discovered that many older members of the Keighley community were feeling lonely, depressed and bored due to inactivity.

“The results so far have been fantastic and residents are delighted to see the first fruits appearing on their trees. Neighbors help each other and feel happier and more active. The project is going from strength to strength with double the number of participants since the start of the project as word spreads and more community members want to join us.

The National Lottery Community Fund has also joined forces with the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the Local Connections Fund, a £4m funding scheme designed to help build connections across the within communities. Earlier this year, more than 850 community groups benefited from the first round of Local Connections Fund grants, with the second round opening for applications on June 28.

The funding is aimed in particular at smaller organizations with an income of less than £50,000 who work with communities that are more vulnerable to social isolation. To find out more, visit: tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/funding/programmes/local-connections-fund.

Abdou Sidibe, Head of Fundraising for Yorkshire & Humber at the National Lottery Community Fund, said: “As we continue to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the stigma around loneliness and making it okay to ask help, remains more important than ever.

“Loneliness affects people of all ages and from all walks of life, and we know that due to the lockdown, many people are experiencing isolation for the very first time. That’s why it’s so important for local groups to continue to receive the funding they need to help people connect, reduce feelings of isolation and help their local communities come together. We are delighted to provide this lifeline on behalf of National Lottery players and also in collaboration with the government – this support will help many more people to thrive.