Since 2016, the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden Cancer Support Center has partnered with Community Harvest Project, a non-profit farm that engages volunteers to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for those experiencing hunger. With locations in Harvard and Grafton, Community Harvest Project volunteer farming programs and community partnerships bring thousands of community members together each year to improve access to healthy foods for individuals and families in need across Worcester County.
One of the many ways the Community Harvest Project supports the community is through the Community Harvest Project/Healing Garden Summer Farm Share Program. What began as a pilot study has resulted in more than 4,450 pounds—and more than 16,900 servings—of fresh fruits and vegetables for Healing Garden clients in cancer treatments in just the past three years alone!
Before participating in the Farm Share Program, approximately 68% of the participants noted they were limited by the cost of fresh produce. As a result of the Community Harvest Project’s fresh vegetable and fruit donations, half of the participants reported a reduction in nutritional concerns and improvement in overall well-being.
In fact, through generous funding from CHNA15, the Community Health Network #15, serving the towns of Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Burlington, Carlisle, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Wilmington, Winchester, and Woburn., the Healing Garden introduced a new program, LiveWell for Cancer Survivorship Program in 2020. The LiveWell program is designed to improve the well-being of cancer patients through a group-based healthy eating program that provides participants better access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the Community Harvest Project Farm Share Program, nutrition education classes focused on nourishing, health-supportive meals, and a virtual Livestrong© group exercise program. The goal of this program is to improve the patient’s well-being through group-based healthy eating, regaining strength through exercise, weight management and fitness, and enhanced quality of life.
The Community Harvest Project/Healing Garden partnership continues to conclusively prove that providing access to fresh produce in conjunction with nutrition education has markedly improved client health while helping clients overcome issues including food insecurity, improve diet and exercise, overcome isolation, and ultimately produce lasting, healthy lifestyle behaviors that contribute to better cancer survival outcomes.
To learn how you can volunteer to harvest vegetables for Healing Garden clients and others experiencing food insecurity in our communities, please visit https://community-harvest.org/volunteer.