During the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Stay at Home, Grow Your Own initiative was set up in Maldon, to encourage people to stay active and eat healthy, and to support key workers and vulnerable residents. Working in partnership, the project was set up by Maldon District Council and Abberton Rural Training (ART), after receiving a Livewell public health grant from Essex County Council. Active Essex provided additional funding and support, alongside South Woodham Ferrers Primary Care Network, Phoenix Primary Care Network and Blackwater Medical Centre to really get the project off the ground.

Getting outside in the fresh air has been a saviour for many of us this year, particularly helping our mental health and wellbeing. Whether it be in your own garden or local allotment, growing fruit and vegetables is a great way to bring a more nutritious change to your plate and helps inspire children and young people to become more excited and interested in healthy foods. Furthermore, it keeps you active, increases your vitamin D levels and offers stress relief and support for emotional wellbeing.

250 free starter grow your own kits were offered and delivered to Maldon District key workers, individuals and families with a physical or mental health impairment, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the help from Tom’s Farm Shop, Perrywoods Garden Centre, The Emporium and Maldon CVS volunteers. Beginners were invited to online grow-your-own tutorials, via ART’s YouTube channel and were encouraged to share their progress on social media to help spread the word on how growing your own fruit and veg can benefit you.

The project has been a huge success so far and has supported 167 families and 83 residents, across 26 parishes. It has enabled communities to come together and learn new skills, and 48% of participants agreed that they were less likely to access additional support or visit a GP for physical/ mental health issues, as a result of taking part in this initiative. It has given residents a purpose and something to enjoy during these difficult times and will ultimately help them lead a healthier lifestyle, whilst also having positive impacts on the environment across the whole district.

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