Move over jelly and custard, hospitals want their greens

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Move over jelly and custard, hospitals want their greens

False Bay Hospital is planting a market garden as part of a food village initiative

Nichola Loock and Jessica van den Heever

Patients will soon be recovering from illness with the help of organic food grown outside their Cape Town hospital window.
A 1,500m² food garden is being planted at False Bay Hospital, in Fish Hoek, as part of TV personality Justin Bonello’s dream of creating not only “the greenest hospital in Cape Town” but a template that can be rolled out nationwide.
Planting began last week, and Bonello — author, cook and host of Ultimate Braai Master — said the garden would also be a training centre for his latest project, Neighbourhood Farm.
It’s the second garden he has launched in the southern Cape peninsula, and he believes he and co-founder Erik Haraldsen have come up with a concept that can sweep the country.
“Market gardens are nothing new. They have been around for hundreds of years,” said Bonello. “They are where people grew their own produce and sold what was extra. Our vision is to recreate the village of our collective memory.”Bonello said Neighbourhood Farm believed there was scope for 15,000 gardens countrywide. “If we create an open-source system that can be shared from North West to the Eastern Cape, we’ll all be eating more healthily, taking better care of the planet and knowing each other better,” he said.
In a partnership with the Permaculture Resource Centre, Neighbourhood Farm is planting the garden on the site of a failed urban agriculture project. There will also be a training garden offering permaculture courses for locals, a packing shed and washing facilities.
Food grown in the garden will be eaten by patients, supplied to the Meals on Wheels kitchen at the hospital and sold to raise funds for “patient comforts”.
Hospital head Wendy Waddington said there would be other benefits, too. “A natural environment can be used to divert patients away from focusing on their pain or distress, while increasing pleasant feelings of freedom and serenity,” she said.
“This calms patients down, providing them with the right mindset to recover effectively. Many studies show evidence that even brief encounters with nature settings can bring about some recovery from stress within three to five minutes.”Bonello said the gardens would also create jobs. “Each location provides work for two to three full-time gardeners. Our vision for the ‘deep south’ is that eventually all the 17 local schools will grow their own neighbourhood farm,” he said.
The first, covering 2,000m² at Kommetjie Primary, was planted in April and is already yielding a rich crop of produce. “We’re streamlining our systems, such as picking, packing and processing, and we expect to have produce for sale in the third term,” said Bonello.
Principal George Gueorguiev said: “We are confident that community gardens can help reduce negative environmental impacts by promoting sustainable agriculture, reducing food transportation costs and reducing water runoff.”
The garden was also proving to be an inspiration for pupils, he said. “Humans, plants and animals can all benefit from urban agriculture, since it creates habitats and improves the ecology of an area.”

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