Dr Ed Rosen, Lambeth GP Food Co-op – helping the medical community to grow food

Lambeth GP Food Co-op is a community led cooperative with patients, nurses, doctors working together to grow food. We do this in NHS hospitals and GP surgeries across Lambeth, in South London, where we engage with people from our communities who are managing long term health conditions which now include long Covid.

Members of the Lambeth GP Food Co-op at the Jennie Lee Garden

In the summer of 2012, Lambeth Council’s Co-operative Innovation Fund and NHS Lambeth provided initial funding to enable us to begin our journey to create a model of community cooperation which may be transferable to other locations. We aimed to do something that was simple and sensible. We have transformed unused space in GP surgeries and hospitals by building vegetable gardens where patients and NHS staff can garden for health together and to do this in a safe and welcoming environment.

Much of the produce which is grown locally is sold at our monthly stall to NHS staff at King’s College Hospital and this provides a small cash flow to support our work. The real value of our stall is that it allows us to meet lots of NHS staff and patients and explain what we are doing and that we are doing it as a co-operative.

The Pandemic has had a deep effect on our work as many of our members and users are vulnerable to the virus which has led to us developing new ways to support them including a gardening at home scheme developed with support from Sutton Seeds.

We are also currently working with the Stroke Service at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Trust supporting stroke patients at our garden at the Pulross Centre in Brixton.

We were delighted to have been shortlisted as small, multi-stakeholder Co-op of the Year in 2021 which recognised our role as a community co-operative which offers a model for working with local health partners, both hospitals and GP surgeries, to improve the health and wellbeing of those in our communities who need it most.

The recently published report ‘Living in a Covid World: A Long Term Approach to Resilience and Wellbeing (House of Lords Covid-19 Committee)’ is a call to action at this difficult time in which “strong community connections within, and between diverse communities“ help us manage the current situation and better prepare for future pandemics and other emergencies.

Lambeth GP Food Co-op will contribute to improving resilience and wellbeing in an uncertain future.

Dr Ed Rosen