The Kitchen Garden: Making Thyme to Raise Awareness

Forth Valley Sensory Centre are jumping into the new year in a ground-breaking way, literally, as SCOVI Co-Convener and Forth Valley Sensory Centre manager, Jacquie Winning, explains…

This is a photo of Jacquie Winning,Centre Manager at Forth Valley Sensory Centre
Jacquie Winning

At Forth Valley Sensory Centre we are always looking for ways in which we can add something new to the services we provide for people with Sensory Loss.

Last year we established a partnership with local environmental charity Forth Environment Link and I’m delighted to say that our combined efforts, together with our diverse aims have resulted in a number of different and exciting initiatives.

For example, together we hosted two pop-up community meals, using locally sourced, seasonal produce. We were able to reach a new audience and raise awareness of what it’s like to live with sensory loss, whilst promoting the health benefits of eating fresh, seasonal food.

We are taking the local, seasonal food idea a step forward with the creation of a new Community Kitchen Garden at the Centre. We received funding from Falkirk Environment Trust to enable us to set this up within our grounds. Once complete we will be able to provide new volunteering opportunities and harvest fresh organic fruit and vegetables for use in our social enterprise cafe and for distributing amongst Centre Users and Centre Partners.

Forth Environment Link have been supporting us through their extensive consultation with stakeholders to ensure our new garden meets their needs. Our visually impaired Centre Users provided invaluable feedback on ways in which the garden can be accessible and user-friendly, for example level paving stones around the raised beds, and no sharp thorny bushes! There was an overwhelming request for organic produce and a plastic-free environment.

Work on the creation of the garden starts in earnest in the next couple of weeks. The spin-off benefits will extend well beyond growing vegetables. We hope that many of our Centre Users will get involved, build their knowledge and learn some new skills. We want to include a “people-shed” to provide a social space for our garden volunteers to take a break and have a chat. We will continue to promote the wider health benefits of taking a healthy living approach.

A small stretch of grass with a shed and a wooden fence
The current view, ready to be transformed.

The new Kitchen Garden is a good way of helping to spread the message regarding making better food choices and how reducing obesity can impact on conditions such as diabetes which, in turn, can lead to sight-loss.

We will be inviting some younger volunteers from the local primary school to get involved with the project and we will build on these links to raise awareness of sensory loss. This also fits nicely with our elementary cooking skills training which is provided by our blind cook and skills trainer. We will introduce our organic produce to the cooking skills menu to teach people how to use these in their meals. Recipes will be made available in braille and large print so people can reproduce these at home.

So, New Year, new Kitchen Garden and whole range of new opportunities stretching before us. Happy days.

Jacquie Winning

9 January 2019

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