We’ve been bragging about the gardening course offered through our Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services (PROS) for quite some time. Now, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) agrees! Our Seeding to Eating: Healthy Living through Gardening project is one of four programs nationwide to receive the 2018 Recognition of Excellence in Wellness as part of their Program to Achieve Wellness (PAW).
“Based on what we were seeing in the PROS participants –their willingness to explore gardening as a medium for their personal growth and exploration – we knew we had something very special happening in our Seeding-to-Eating project. Having that recognized by SAMHSA is a wonderful validation and speaks to the many dimensions of wellness we are able to address through our unique horticulture-nutrition project,” says Rita Liegner, LMHC, deputy executive director for Rehabilitative Services at TGCW. “Aside from the physical health benefits of Seeding to Eating, participants find that caring for plants helps with depression and anxiety, and teaches useful skills. They love the idea of teamwork and shared meaningful, productive activity on our beautiful outdoor deck and indoor garden room. We’re proud of the project, of course, but we’re equally, if not more, proud of the participants who have made significant progress toward their personal goals toward recovery through it. Their passion is inspiring.”
Seeding to Eating began in May 2017 based on an idea by Alicia Lore-Grachan, LCSW, director of PROS. Kathy Hagendorf, TGCW board member and master gardener, quickly and enthusiastically became involved and partnered with Stephanie Natelli, MHC-LP, a PROS recovery counselor. Since then, 75 participants have completed the course with 30 more currently enrolled. “Seeding to Eating” is offered as part of wellness self-management (WSM). WSM courses to teach skills for relapse prevention, physical health care, food and nutrition, symptom self-management, coping and problem solving, stress management, and mental health self-help.
Seeding to Eating shows participants how to increase control of their health by growing and eating vegetables and herbs from seeds, then harvesting, preparing and eating dishes made from their crops. Participants have remarked that they had no idea that vegetables could be grown and used this way. Many had been vegetable-averse, or simply not exposed to fresh vegetables and fruit, and have been pleasantly surprised at how delicious healthy food can be. Learning to cook and prepare healthy salads, sauces, dips and side dishes, is an outlet for anxiety and depression, and addresses obesity, diabetes, and other conditions that disproportionately affect those with mental illness. Employment is a goal for about half of all Seeding to Eating participants. Our PROS employment specialist is available to help participants apply for seasonal jobs or internships in garden shops and nurseries.
You can watch two participant testimonial videos, which were part of the SAMSHA submission, here and here.
As part of the recognition, Ms. Hagendorf, Ms. Lore-Grachan, and Ms. Natelli will present as part of a national webinar on August 1.
Many thanks to The Burpee Foundation for their support.