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Helping grow food in urban spaces

2 October 2023

Volunteers working in the garden

Recently, a 20-strong group from our Procurement Solutions team swapped laptops for wellies and gardening gloves as they spent a day creating a community garden in Longsight, Manchester in partnership with SNUG (Sustainable Northmoor by Urban Greening) and Sow the City as part of our NHS SBS 'Healthy' Social Value programme.

The aim of the community garden project is to provide accessible, good quality, green spaces in the urban suburb of Manchester through orchard planting, renovation and greening. Thanks to this forward-thinking project, next year fruit trees will be providing shelter for wildlife alongside fruit for the community and bird and bat boxes will give additional spaces to encourage more wildlife.

The project will also provide opportunities for local residents to develop new skills, receive horticultural training and bolster confidence in growing food in urban spaces which is invaluable in this time of food insecurity and climate crisis.

Our company value 'team work' guides our teams to demonstrate a can-do attitude that inspires others and the Sow the City volunteering team certainly did just that! The team rolled up their sleeves and worked tirelessly. By working together, they were able to deliver some incredible progress over one day that would have taken the community months of work. They were able to transform the disused bowling green by building raised hügelkultur*beds for vegetable planting and they cleared overgrowth, enabling them to build storage for the garden.

Paddy Howlin,  said "This volunteering event was an excellent opportunity, not only to benefit a local community scheme near to our North West Hub office base, it also offered a unique chance for our team to work together and utilise their skills in a very different environment.

"Not only has this resulted in the SNUG Longsight scheme benefiting from our teams' efforts to regenerate a community space, it has helped integrate new members of our team into our organisation, whilst also helping create new relationships across Procurement Solutions.

"Despite really difficult weather conditions (and many aches and pains afterwards!), the volunteering opportunity brought the very best out of our team and there was a great sense of accomplishment from everyone who participated by the end of the day, when they could visibly see the results of their volunteering efforts. This really was a fantastic experience for all of those who participated."

Olivia Murphy, Head of Sustainability said "We are incredibly pleased to be working in partnership with Sow the City in Manchester for the second year running. Volunteering is an excellent way for our teams to give back to the communities they are a part of.  Our team worked hard to create a wonderful space that will not only support improvements in the local environment, but also to create a vital green space for residents to enjoy and use to learn new skills."

At NHS Shared Business Services, we recognise the positive impact volunteering can have, not only within our local communities up and down the country, but also for our colleagues. We strive to be a force for good in line with our values - driving positive change by supporting the NHS and ensuring that colleagues feel that they have the opportunity to make a difference.

A powerful component of our social value strategy is our volunteering programme. We actively encourage colleagues to contribute three days a year to volunteer - either as part of a team at work or for a cause chosen by them. 

*Hugelkultur is a centuries-old, traditional way of building a garden bed from rotten logs and plant debris. These mound shapes are created by marking out an area for a raised bed, clearing the land, and then heaping up woody material (that's ideally already partially rotted) topped with compost and soil.