Imagine a New Zealand where everyone has plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, people’s health is greatly improved and our communities are stronger and more prosperous.
That’s the vision behind a new website launched in December 2011 that aims to inspire community action to help address poor nutrition caused by poverty by helping people to help themselves and communities to work together to ensure that children get a better start in life – and elderly people also get the care and respect that they deserve.
The site www.growtogether.org.nz was developed by Katherine Smith, editor of one of New Zealand’s first books on organic growing called Superfoods: How to Grow Them and Why You Need Them Now (AIT Press 1993, currently out of print). She is currently the editor of The New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine.
“A lot of the health problems that we have in New Zealand are diet-related,” Katherine says. “We have significant problems with poverty and the increase in the price of fresh fruit and vegetables means that many people simply can’t afford to buy much fresh produce.”
On the other hand, Katherine says “In most parts of New Zealand you can grow a wide range of fresh vegetables and fruit and improve your diet immensely, while also benefiting from fresh air, sunshine and exercise.”
Katherine acknowledges that not everyone grew up learning how to grow vegetables or look after fruit trees.
“Home gardening used to be something that everyone did, but over the last forty or so years, there has been a decline in gardening as people have become busier. However www.growtogether.org.nz has plenty of information designed to help people who have no gardening experience learn the basics that they need to start growing fruit and vegetables for their families and to share with others in their community.”
For people with no gardening experience, Katherine suggests going to the Community Gardens Directory on the site at this link http://www.growtogether.org.
She suggests that people who have gardening experience volunteer to help a school in their area start or maintain a garden, either by approaching a school directly or by approaching an organisation that supports gardens in schools such as Project Gro administered by The Soil and Health Association (http://www.organicnz.org) or the Garden to Table programme (http://www.gardentotable.org.
“Gardening is a health promoting activity that also helps children’s social development. Gardening can also into many different areas of study such as science and technology and social studies. Children who have the opportunity to participate in school gardening programmes and learn to grow food have a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.”