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University of British Columbia School of Occupational & Environmental Hygiene

Community Gardening as a Path to Well-Being (Co-lead Researchers: Dr. Melinda Suto, Assistant Professor, UBC and Mr. Darrell Burnham, Executive Director, Coast Foundation Society)

The project arose as the co-leads discussed what people living with mental illness could do to improve their health and well-being. The research questions are: 1) How does participation in a community garden affect the well-being and social connections of people living in supported housing? 2) How do we engage people in a physical activity (community gardening) that encourages better health and social connections for people living in supported housing? Research and policy reports support community gardening as a catalyst for positive health; clinicians confirm the need for this type of non-medical strategy. Participants will join the advisory group; do data collection and analysis; use findings to guide changes; create and deliver knowledge translation products. Participants’ involvement in community gardening will improve physical health and access to fresh produce, decrease isolation and foster community engagement with others. There are opportunities to learn skills, share knowledge and mentor; this may encourage people to try new activities. Findings from this project will educate the public, create connections with like-minded people and shape policy decisions on future gardens. Broader knowledge contributions will occur in academic publications, which can provide evidence for the recovery model in mental health. We anticipate expanding community gardens in the region and helping people move from the margins of society to the mainstream, through a popular activity. Research Team members: Mr. Rudy Small, Research Team member and Ms. Cathy Taylor, Research Team member.