A Preston gardening scheme helping to boost mental health and well-being among a housing group’s vulnerable tenants has been named a winner after successfully pitching to a new community crowdfunding project.

Progress Housing Group’s Walton’s Parade Garden project took part in the first Preston Soup, which invites people to make a small donation in return for a bowl of soup and bread and the chance to vote on a community initiative they believe will most benefit the city.

Andrea Richardson, Community Involvement Manager from Progress Housing Group, and Walton’s Parade resident James came to pitch at the event, which is coordinated by staff from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) with other community organisations. More than 50 people attended on Wednesday, 24 February, raising £200.

Andrea said: “It was a pleasure to be invited to pitch for funding for the Walton’s Parade Garden project, which is going to really help us develop the scheme further this year and we will be inviting the wider community of Preston to come along to meet the residents taking part. We will also be offering free mental health awareness training to local communities to try and break down the barriers and dispel some of myths surrounding it.”

James added: “It was a great experience and I can’t believe we won.  It was a really good boost to my confidence and I really enjoyed meeting new people from my community.”

The Walton’s Parade Garden project in Preston promotes healthy eating and well-being among its tenants through the creation of a community garden and vegetable patch. Staff work with residents from the supported living scheme, which provides short-term accommodation and support for people with enduring mental health needs who have recently been discharged from hospital or have left the prison system, to help the gardening project bloom.

It has proved to be a great success in encouraging the tenants to be more active, give them a sense of achievement, engage more with the world around them and learn new skills. The food is then used for community healthy eating projects to teach tenants how to feed themselves with tasty, nutritious food. The crowdfunding money will be used to expand the project and grow more food by purchasing rasied beds, plants, a greenhouse and tools.

Walton’s Parade Garden Project has recently been nominated in the in the Building Healthy Communities category of the Northern Housing Consortium’s 8th annual Northern Silver Screen awards, which aims to showcase and celebrate some of the most innovative and life-transforming work carried out by northern housing associations within the communities they serve.

UCLan is working with its own Creative Communities Group and Media Innovation Studio, as well as community supporters from groups such as The Creative Network and The Larder to run Preston Soup, which follows in the footsteps of the successful Detroit Soup in the US that has raised more than £63,000 over the last six years. 

UCLan Enterprise Manager Sally Bate, one of the Soup’s organisers, said: “Our launch event was a big success and we received a lot of support that we can now build on.  All of the pitches were from very worthy causes and we are already looking forward to hearing from Andrea and the Walton’s Parade Garden project team to see how the funds from our first Preston Soup have made a difference.”

The next Preston Soup takes place on the 8 June at Dice and Donuts Café, opposite Preston Railway Station. Community groups who would like to join the planning group or find out how to apply to present can get in touch via The Preston Soup website at www.prestonsoup.org, by calling 01772 894769 or emailing info@prestonsoup.org.  People can also follow the initiative on Twitter @Preston_Soup and finding PrestonSoup on Facebook.