ALEX HOUSE: Food builds community

ALEX HOUSE: Food builds community

Physical, psychological and emotional health all part of Alex House programs

By Neil Fernyhough

Whether it’s a family dinner, a church potluck or a cultural festival, we all know that food brings people together.

As the community programmer at Alexandra Neighbourhood House, I quickly learned activities which give people a chance to experience this essential part of living and thriving is a potent tool to achieve our goal of community-building.

Our oldest community program at Alex House is our monthly Celebrating Community Lunch, held on the second Wednesday of each month.

The lunch provides a low-cost, home-cooked meal, entertainment, and games for seniors, supported adults, and others.

Food also features at most of our events. Our annual Alexandra Festival (May 26) includes diverse food options; and this year will feature a beer and wine garden.

But there is more to food and eating than socializing.

We have supported community interest in issues of food security, healthy eating, and food education. Alexandra Community Garden was built in 2012, across from our Crescent Beach location; and in 2016, Crescent Park Community Garden, located at the corner of 128 Street and 25 Avenue, was opened.

We now oversee 86 leased plots, tended by more than 100 gardeners!

There is strong evidence to support improved health outcomes for people engaged in community gardening, which is why the building of Crescent Park Community Garden was financed in part by the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation.

Health is improved through the physical activity of gardening, the psychological well-being of getting outdoors, and the emotional well-being of being part of a diverse community.

The gardens donate produce to Sources Food Bank.

The success of our community gardens led Alex House to become a member of the Good Food Organizations, a national consortium of agencies committed to improving physical, emotional, and social well-being through healthy eating. This, in turn, has led to implementing a Healthy Eating Policy for our programs.

This year, we will be looking to augment this by identifying volunteers to liaise with other local community gardens to work together on advocacy and education – and look for opportunities to have fun together (over food, of course!).

As spring approaches, our two community gardens are recruiting for the season.

If you are interested in learning more about leasing a plot in either one of our community gardens, please contact me at communityprograms@alexhouse.net, or 604-535-0015 (ext 236).

Neil Fernyhough is manager of Alexandra Neighbourhood House’s community programs. For information on programs/services at Camp Alexandra, call 604-535-0015 or go to www.alexhouse.net

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