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Celebrating the bounty of Toronto Rehab’s vegetable gardens

The GROW gardening team
The GROW gardening team celebrating Urban Agriculture Day at Bickle Centre (Photo: UHN)

Toronto Rehab's vegetable gardens offer more than just an outdoor space to gather. Located across three sites, the gardens have successfully engaged patients who are rehabilitating from injury or illness in a meaningful life activity, built rapport between staff and patients, and have increased collaboration among staff.

"A garden is a beautiful outside space for patients to appreciate," says Stefan Pankiw, spiritual care provider. "By having the opportunity to do something as simple as even watering plants, patients' dignity is honoured. It allows patients to be engaged in a safe and meaningful way."

On Sept. 15, Toronto kicked off its first official Urban Agriculture Day – a celebration of urban-grown food and the people who grow it. As a member of the Toronto Urban Growers Map, Toronto Rehab participated in the festivities, with open houses that centered around the crops grown by patients, staff, and volunteers.

By joining the citywide celebration, Toronto Rehab was able to promote the benefits of building vegetable gardens in healthcare settings, and connect with a blossoming network of urban growers who see urban farming as holding solutions to city issues such as carbon emission, food insecurity, adaptation and resilience to climate change, storm water, and waste management.

"As part of the Energy & Environment team, I have the pleasure to work with green teams at every site across UHN," Lisa Vanlint, Energy Steward for UHN says. 

"What's happening at Toronto Rehab gardens is kind of magical, but not everyone knows about it. By participating in Urban Agriculture Day, we help put these gardens and the people that tend them on the map."

Staff enjoying their roasted Ontario corn
Staff enjoying their roasted Ontario corn. (Photo: UHN)

At the Bickle Centre, patients helped prepare the space by weeding, cleaning, and harvesting herbs and bean. Highlights included a scavenger hunt and corn roast, which raised the necessary funds to purchase next year's seeds and seedlings.

University Centre hosted a tea party, with baked goods containing homegrown strawberries, zucchini, mint, and more, and Lyndhurst celebrated with freshly harvested and stir-fried eggplants.

"This day was a success because of the hard work of the many patients, staff and volunteers involved," Lisa says. "You could see the pride that each have in these gardens, as we enjoyed the fruits (and vegetables) of our labour."​

University Centre Rooftop Garden Tea Party
Pinkies up at the University Centre Rooftop Garden Tea Party (photo credit: UHN)

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