Garden yourself happy this spring

As many people will know, the Food Partnership supports a network of 70 community gardens where over 4,000 people grow food together each year. Today we're launching a new video to showcase these unique spaces and to encourage more people to give gardening a try. 

We're also releasing some new findings* alongside the video which show how gardening and getting outdoors can improve health and happiness. Evaluation of volunteer enquiries during 2014 found that 58% of people who volunteered weekly at a garden in Brighton & Hove reported significant improvements to wellbeing and 67% reported improved life satisfaction after 3-6 months. 100% felt their garden experience would have a long-term, positive impact on their life. For those who volunteered a few times or more, 42% mentioned an improvement to their diet and 29% reported an increase in physical activity. People involved at community gardens also enjoy the chance to meet new people and gain skills, or even try new foods. Nationally, a range of scientific literature provides further evidence for these benefits.

Quotes from people who volunteered help illustrate these benefits: "Many thanks for referring me to volunteer...the whole thing exceeded my expectations... I felt that working with my hands and doing something practical was very therapeutic for me." "Was able to deal with unnecessary stresses, as being outside and working with nature kept me grounded." "I've been more experimental with fresh vegetables to help my diabetes." "It has made me feel more a part of the community and enabled me to meet loads of like minded people." "I've been harvesting fresh salad fruit and veg and eating it the same day how amazing is that!"

Anyone wanting to get involved in a garden can receive advice about volunteering from us – the Food Partnership receives hundreds of requests from individuals seeking advice, but also takes referrals from GPs, counsellors, support workers and other professionals.

With over 70 different gardens in the city there is something for almost everyone. We run a garden in Preston Park, but the majority of projects are run independently by community groups, charities and volunteers. Most gardens have open 'workdays' all year round, during the week and at weekends, so people can drop-in once or attend regularly. Gardens are open to people of all ages and levels of fitness, complete beginners and experienced growers. Many gardens share their harvest with volunteers, or cook a shared meal on site during each workday.

How to get involved:

  • For individuals: Anyone can find out more or request advice at www.bhfood.org.uk/volunteer.
  • For groups/ organisations: We can offer advice, workshops & courses, or taster sessions for groups of vulnerable adults interested to try gardening or setup a new garden. Contact us to find out more.
  • For referrers: Find out about more about the opportunities on offer (including those for vulnerable adults and people with support needs) and how to make a referral at www.bhfood.org.uk/volunteer

If you have any questions, contact Jo Glazebrook, Volunteer Coordinator, on or 01273 431716.

*Evaluation results summary:

We analysed initial and follow-up data for 31 people who received advice about volunteering at community gardens in 2014. The survey used widely accepted and validated measures such as the SWEMWBS (Warwick-Edinburgh) wellbeing scale. For those who volunteered on a monthly or weekly basis in the 3-6 months before doing our follow-up survey:

  • These people experienced an average increase in their SWEMWBS score of 1.88 points, with a 2.0 increase for those volunteering weekly. (2 points is considered a meaningful change.) Of those volunteering weekly, 7 out of 12 people showed a 2 point increase or more, including two people whose scores increased by 5 points and one who increased by 11 points. For those volunteering monthly, 1 out of 3 people increased by more than 2 points.
  • 77% of those volunteering weekly or monthly also showed an increase in their life satisfaction, with an average increase of 1.47 points (on a scale of 1-10).
  • 100% of these people felt that the experience they had at the garden(s) would have a long-term, positive impact on their life.
  • 10 people who volunteered a few times, still showed an average increase in their SWEMWBS score of 2.38 points and an average increase in their life satisfaction score of 0.78. This was mainly down to two individuals whose SWEMWBS scores increased by 7 and 10 points after volunteering a few times over 3-6 months.
  • Comments on the survey showed other benefits for those who volunteered a few times or more: 42% of responses mentioned an improvement to their diet and 29% reported an increase in physical activity. Similarly, 52% stated mental wellbeing benefits in the comments.