March 13, 2019

Growing healthy community

Our Approach

growing healthy community1Green Access promotes environmental awareness, and makes the links between community health, capacity building, food sustainability and urban agriculture. In the context of a Community Health Centre, the rooftop garden and Green Access Program are used to support and strengthen health outcomes.

The rooftop garden provides a space to grow organic and affordable foods. Through doing so we are demonstrating that a healthy and affordable alternative to purchasing food in a grocery store is to grow and harvest one’s own food. The organic food we produce is shared amongst a wide range of visitors, community members and volunteers who have helped maintain the garden. Given a combination of factors in the Taylor-Massey neighbourhood, (which include high rates of unemployment, low income and limited access to garden space or organic markets) access to healthy, organic food from the rooftop garden is significant.

The organic gardens we grow are used for the teachings and learning of environmental issues, and skill building around growing food and healthy eating. Rather than separate “Food” from “Environment” we try to understand how the two are inter-connected. Workshops and training have included gardening in small spaces, herbal teas, soil and composting, sprouts, seed saving, and many more topics related to organic gardening, food and the environment.

Green Access programs include weekly garden drop-in, public events, educational workshops and volunteer training. As well as offering these programs and workshops we partner and collaborate with multiple groups. We tailor programs and events to meet the needs and interests of participants and groups, whether these are internal to Access Alliance, Hub partners, or outside organizations. For example, education programs with the Youth team in 2011 and 2012 included the “Youth Environmental Ambassadors”, and “the Right to Eat Right”. In 2013 a dietetic intern worked with the Nutrition team to make a curriculum for garden-based teaching about hypertension and herbs as a replacement for salt. Each year, programs that use the community kitchen

By integrating Green Access activities into programs and departments at Access Alliance, we build collaboration and interdisciplinary work.

Community health on The Green Roof

The following is a list of Green Access partnerships and collaborative programs, to showcase the multiple uses of the garden space and be an inspiration to others.

growing healthy community2Social Work:

  • Referral of socially isolated clients to the garden volunteer group
  • Use of the outdoor space for group therapy sessions
  • Incorporate fresh ingredients into recipes with cooking groups


  • Referral of volunteers to the garden volunteer group
  • Garden Tours
  • Suggestions for culturally specific foods to grow

Women’s and children’s programs:

  • Outdoor fitness programs, e.g. “Moving Moms”
  • English conversation circle in the garden
  • Peer outreach workers build awareness of Green Access programs
  • Translation of plant names
  • Use of fresh ingredients in cooking programs and snacks
  • Collaborative development of garden and food program for school-aged children: “Gardening Goodies”
  • Diabetes education

growing healthy community3Youth team:

  • Garden tours and planting, harvesting activities for youth drop-in programs
  • Use of the harvest in snacks and cooking with youth
  • Referral of youth volunteers to garden volunteer group
  • Youth participation in garden planning, building compost bins
  • A collaborative program: Youth Environmental Ambassadors
  • Garden tours for the public led by Youth Ambassadors
  • Outdoor artwork with ecological paint

Community development:

  • Collaboration on educational workshops and community events
  • Green Access activities made portable for community events off-site

OEYC-FRP (Ontario Early Years Centre – Family Resource Program):

  • Planting seeds with toddlers and babies
  • Harvesting and taking home the fresh produce
  • EYET staff participate in composting
  • Food preparation in community kitchen collects compost
  • Incorporation of fresh ingredients into recipes for snacks and meals
  • Garden tours