Root ‘n’ Fruit: how overgrown allotment was transformed into a thriving community garden

10 October 2018 | North West England


Hundreds of families enjoy fresh fruit and veg and a whole lot more.

The Root ’n’ Fruit community garden is a lot more than an allotment. Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers, it is not only growing fresh food for local families, but providing a resource that teaches children about nature and helps people of all ages lead happier, healthier lives.

Among those who have benefited are local people suffering isolation or with mental health issues such as depression, many of whom are referred to the garden by health providers.

During the school holidays children can join a gardening club, while local schools also take classes to the allotment to learn about the growing cycle, healthy eating and sustainability.And whoever has taken part in planting, watering or weeding can take the produce home for their own dinner tables.

The project’s Bob Bennett said: “Gardening is such a natural thing for a human being, to plant a seed, put effort into making it grow, then eat it. For people living urban lives to do that brings huge benefits not just to them but the whole community.” And that’s all on top of its primary purpose, helping hundreds of families put fresh fruit and veg on the table.

Locals in Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent have created a place where people don’t just take away free food to cook and eat - but help plant and grow it as well. Root ’n’ Fruit allows anyone to get their hands dirty tending to veggie patches and fruit gardens. Then, when the produce is ready to be picked, it is donated free of charge to people in the community who may be struggling to put fresh food on the table.

Dubbed a ‘fresh food bank’ by its green-fingered founders, the scheme has already helped hundreds of local families since it first began on an abandoned allotment patch five years ago.

Bob added: “We came up with the idea because there weren’t any places locally where people could buy cheap food.

“Then we found a large piece of land on an allotment patch which was overgrown.

“We wanted to help people not just to eat, but also to learn about healthy eating and promote exercise, enabling the benefits these can bring to the local community.

“On top of that, there are the therapeutic benefits of gardens, where people can either enjoy peace and quiet on their own, or enjoy being in the company of others, which can help bring the community together.”

Run by a small group of volunteers, the community garden has proved a great success with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Bob said many families who take part send him photos of the meal they made using the vegetables they grew themselves.