Since January 2010, the half acre site at the back of the Simon Community House here in Dundalk, has been slowly transformed from an overgrown patch of rubble to a large and productive vegetable garden.
This community food initiative, The Food Garden Project, is one of seven recipients of funding from Safefood, a North-South agency.It is part of the safefood funded and Healthy Food for All managed Demonstration Programme of Community Food Initiatives. The Garden is tended by 12 volunteers, six each from the Simon Community and RehabCare, and is overseen by Anne Hynes.
Prior to receiving the funding from Safefood, which is spread of over three years, the Garden Project could only run three hours per week. The funding has made a huge difference to the project, and to the use of the garden are from a half utilised space, to a new Dundalk version of the Good Life which has in the past 12 months produced plenty of fresh, organic vegetables.
The key idea behind the seven community food initiatives is to promote better access and availability of healthy food to the socially marginalised. It is an all-island initiative with the aim of making each project self-supporting and sustainable by the time the funding ends, and of tackling the issue of food poverty. Surveys, such as the one conducted by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in 2009, show that the marginalised are prone to eating less nutritious food and tend to suffer more health problems as a result.
The idea in Dundalk Simon is that those who have volunteered to work in the Garden Project will learn how to grow vegetables, and later, how to cook simple meals using them, with the help of in house cookery demonstrations.