Somerville, MA…Over the past few years, community gardens have become more widely recognized for their ability to promote healthy eating and physical activity and help fight food insecurity in urban neighborhoods. This year, the Spring Hill Garden, located on Cambridge Health Alliance’s Somerville Hospital campus at 125 Lowell St., enters its third season supplying fresh produce to local food pantries and residence programs and raising awareness for health and wellness in the Somerville community.
Spring Hill Garden is organized by the Somerville Community Health Agenda, an innovative partnership between Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), the Somerville Health Department, and the community that works collaboratively to improve the health of Somerville residents. Director Lisa Brukilacchio began the garden in 2010 in response to a call by national and state leaders for hospitals to take a more active role in increasing access to healthy food and fighting food insecurity, with two years of funding support from Urban Farms of Detroit. Local donations help the garden to continue to flourish.
Spring Hill Garden has 13 raised beds used to grow fresh vegetables and herbs (with one bed tended by neighborhood families for their enjoyment). Last year, the garden provided produce to three food pantries (the HIV food pantry at CHA’s Somerville Hospital campus, Elizabeth Peabody House, and Project Soup), as well as residential homes at CASPAR, a local nonprofit organization that provides community-based services for those affected by substance use disorders. Such partnerships will continue this year, with plans for other organizations to participate. For the 2012 season, seed purchasing and seedling plans were coordinated with local partners including Groundwork Somerville, the Somerville Community Growing Center, Green City Growers, and Gaining Ground farm in Concord, Mass.
Last year, CHA’s Victims of Violence Program, which provides comprehensive mental health services for crime victims and crime-victimized communities, began helping to maintain the garden. Members of the Firmly Planted Garden Group volunteered weekly in the garden throughout the growing season, helping to harvest produce and assist in delivering it to the assorted food programs. The group resumed this year in April, offered free of charge as a collaboration between the Victims of Violence Program and the Somerville Community Health Agenda.
“For many of the group members, working in the garden offers a unique experience of feeling productive and contributing to the well-being of others despite overwhelming pain, both physical and emotional,” said Barbara Hamm, PsyD, Director of the Victims of Violence Program. “Working side by side, getting dirty together, offering help to those in authority, and sharing the experience of awe and delight in nature seldom occurs in traditional outpatient psychiatry service delivery, and group members develop a connection to life-affirming aspects of themselves by the end of the growing season.”
Cambridge Health Alliance is an integrated, award-winning health system that provides high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston’s metro-north communities. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices, and the Cambridge Public Health Dept. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine. Visit us online at www.challiance.org.