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Healthy crop in hospital garden

A garden at Lentegeur Hospital is playing a part in mental health recovery.

On Tuesday Premier Helen Zille paid a visit to see the progress of an innovative psychiatric care project based at the hospital.

The market garden initiative, run by the Spring Foundation, promotes psychosocial rehabilitation by actively involving patients in growing, harvesting, packaging and marketing the garden’s organic produce.

Zille became involved last year when the Office of the Premier gave R745 000, through the South African Urban Food and Farming Trust, to help develop the garden.

Premier Helen Zille takes a tour through the market garden at Lentegeur Hospital.

Premier Helen Zille takes a tour through the market garden at Lentegeur Hospital.

 

“With the addition of other major sponsors, Janssen Pharmaceutica and the Rupert Foundation, the market garden project has now expanded to a 1.2ha organic vegetable and flower garden,” she said at the official launch last week.

“Our partnership with the Spring Foundation is not only a source of hope and recovery for patients, but also a source of healthy food for the community.”

The project uses organic farming techniques and borehole water for irrigation.

In her keynote address last week, Zille commended the initiative and reaffirmed the importance of reintegrating mental health patients into the community.

“Psychiatric hospitals are required to focus on assisting patients to develop the emotional, social and intellectual skills required to live, learn and work in their communities, with the least amount of professional support. This is what the Spring Foundation and Lentegeur Hospital are achieving through the market garden initiative,” Zille said.

According to Dr John Parker, psychiatrist at the hospital and director of the Spring Foundation, the garden forms part of the various psychosocial rehabilitation initiatives at the hospital.

All rehabilitation activities are overseen by the hospital’s occupational therapy ­department.

“The market garden is a form of ‘green therapy’ which aims to improve mental and physical wellbeing through taking part in outdoor activities,” he says.

“The Spring Foundation employs two farmers who provide patients hands-on training on how to grow, harvest and sustain the garden.

“A core group of 30 patients are involved on a regular basis, with about 80 patients having benefitted from involvement in gardening activities to date.

“Patient participation in market garden activities is strictly voluntary and specifically open to longer-term inpatient forensic and general adult psychiatry patients. Patients are first screened for suitability.”

He says patients’ participation in the garden has had a profound impact on their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

“Our team has noticed that patients are more motivated and less temperamental. They showcase improved teamwork and interpersonal skills. A further benefit is educational development, which improves the prospects of future employment after discharge,” says Parker.

The produce, including cauliflower, green beans and peas, beetroot, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes, is sold at organic markets and directly to Lentegeur staff and the public. Produce is also given to participating patients, who are guided on how to prepare healthy meals for themselves.

“All proceeds from the selling of produce are ploughed back into the market garden project. We are also meeting with other local producers about creating local produce markets as a way of addressing food insecurity in the Mitchell’s Plain district,” says Parker.

“In the future we would like to encourage discharged patients to start their own gardens in their communities.”

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