Case Study: Abbeyfield Grace Muriel House
The Abbeyfield Society celebrated British Food Fortnight by bringing in the harvest and feasting on the fruits and vegetables from a unique cross-generational gardening project, bringing together elderly and young people.
Involvement with the local community is at the heart of the older people’s housing and care charity ethos and at our Grace Muriel House residential home in St Albans, Herts, this means getting your hands dirty.
The house has a fantastic garden growing fruit, vegetables and herbs, which was established in 2014, and this year saw its first full harvest, the finale being a British Food Fortnight event. The garden was created with help from young people at the nearby Marlborough Science Academy and volunteers from construction firm Willmott Dixon. Volunteers cleared an overgrown area of the grounds and helped residents to create a vegetable patch and accessible wheelchair-friendly raised beds.
The community creation of the garden led to the formation of a gardening club for residents, who planted, tended and harvested fruit, vegetables and herbs. The fruits of their labours, including strawberries and raspberries, green beans, pumpkins and fresh herbs, were used in the freshly-cooked meals prepared in the Grace Muriel House kitchen along with ingredients from local suppliers, supporting St Albans businesses.
Lesley Edwards from Grace Muriel House said: “Our residents love growing their own food in the garden. It gives them the opportunity to reminiscence about looking after their own gardens in days gone by, enjoy the fresh air and meals made from seasonal fruit and vegetables and learn new skills
“It’s been a very productive year in the garden, and our final harvest coincided with British Food Fortnight, so we made a real event of it. We picked fresh herbs that were baked into flatbread, cleaned and displayed the vegetables for our own harvest festival and then enjoyed them in our meals.
“Our garden has been a real community effort, none of this would have been possible without the help of volunteers.”
Dave Bridgland from Marlborough Science Academy said: “It’s been great to get involved with a project like this, and see the results of our work with Abbeyfield.
“Home grown British food has brought the generations together and helped to establish a new relationship between ourselves and Grace Muriel House, which we look forward to continuing in the future.”
Home cooked food is central to the service Abbeyfield provides at its 500-plus houses across the UK, using the freshest local ingredients possible. The charity invites isolated older people into its houses for Christmas meals and events every year during its annual Coping at Christmas campaign.
Thoughts at Grace Muriel House are already turning towards next year’s gardening season. First volunteers from the community will help to clear the garden ahead of deciding what to plant for 2016, and the cycle of seeds to harvest will start once more.