Did you know there are more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence – from well-known ones like stroke, brain injury, epilepsy and dementia to much rarer illnesses like Alice in Wonderland Syndrome too? The Brain Charity is the only charity in the UK to be here for every single one of them – and we have been for more than 25 years.
The impact of a diagnosis can be devastating. People lose control of their lives and many face unemployment, poverty and social isolation as a result. Life can become very lonely and frightening – meaning physical and mental health and wellbeing can suffer further.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with our pioneering friends at social enterprise Farm Urban.
Over the past five years, Farm Urban has been educating schools, businesses and communities on the benefits of growing food in cities, and how to create a sustainable future for food.
In 2019 they created Liverpool’s first vertical farm to bring healthy, sustainable, locally-grown greens to the people of Merseyside and beyond. Using the soilless growing system of hydroponics, they grow food in space-saving vertical towers without using any pesticides.
Together, we want to bring their food revolution – and the physical and mental health benefits of growing fresh, nutritious greens – to people with neurological conditions.
From this pioneering pilot, we’ll create a project around accessible, indoor food growing that can be shared with communities across the UK and beyond.
Enter: The Edible Wall
We want to introduce vertical food-growing to The Brain Charity’s community to encourage our service users to make sustainable, healthy food choices, learn new skills and make new friends along the way.
Working with the Farm Urban team, our service users will help to install a living wall in our public HQ in Liverpool city centre. The eight-tower, 2m x 1.8m hydroponic system will use energy-efficient LED lights and circulating water to grow leafy greens and herbs all year round. It doesn’t require soil, and being indoors, means we can grow efficiently no matter the weather.
Usual agricultural techniques are a significant cause of climate change, but this method of farming is:
· 100% pesticide free
· Uses 90% less water than if grown in a field
· Leaves zero waste
See the right hand side for more information on our rewards.
Improved diet, improved health & wellbeing
Malnutrition is common in many neurological conditions, including stroke, motor neurone disease and dementia, and is often a contributing factor for illnesses getting worse. Furthermore, many of our clients live below or on the poverty line, with 31% saying they barely have enough money to live on despite receiving welfare benefits. The link between social deprivation and poor diet in the UK is long-established, with processed foods still cheaper and more accessible.
Healthy eating has a positive effect not only on physical health but also mental health, with leafy greens in particular being a potent ‘brain food’ full of antioxidants. Of the top 40 foods with the highest correlation to the prevention of chronic disease, the top 20 is dominated by leafy greens - some of the healthiest food on the planet. The edible wall will provide nutritious food to feed service users in our on-site Brain Food Café with zero food miles, reducing their carbon footprint.
Taking care of plants has also been highlighted as a mental health booster—studies have shown that tending to plants relieves stress and lowers blood pressure. Some studies have even suggested small amounts of gardening can help lower the risk of dementia. It appears that taking care of another living thing and watching it grow is the key.
The research carried out during the project will measure key wellbeing indicators from participants - such as community participation, social networks, social support and healthy eating - and whether positive changes in these areas can be attributed to engaging with the Edible Wall. We hope through the increased social opportunities that will arise from sharing the experience of growing food using the Edible Wall, and the ability to reconnect with nature indoors, participants will report higher levels of wellbeing.
Building community and confidence by eating, growing and learning together.
Social isolation is another huge issue among our service users. In a year dominated by Covid-19, the damaging and potentially fatal impact of loneliness is something many people have only just opened their eyes to. But for people with neurological conditions who struggle to communicate or even leave the house, it’s a long-term problem. Responding to a survey this January, more than half of The Brain Charity’s current clients said they regularly felt lonely.
Studies have shown that education about nutrition not only helps to promote dietary change, but also utilises group settings enables bonding between participants. Research has further demonstrated how engaging with natural features in urban environments can enhance psychological wellbeing.
The Edible Wall will be a physical representation of improved social cohesion—a new way for people to work together to nurture and grow a living object while making friends, building confidence and learning new skills.
- Empower our neurological community, which is so often marginalised and forgotten about, to know that they can contribute to a better, healthier future.
- Lay the groundwork for bringing an innovative, new approach to urban farming to community groups around the country and across the world.
The Edible Wall is for us all.
Risks and challenges
Your support will enable us to introduce vertical food-growing to The Brain Charity’s community. The project is designed to engage as many people as possible in the early stages, by delivering boxes of greens and offering fun activities, on-line and in-person, to encourage people to get involved and learn more about food, diet and sustainability.
As we build community around this first stage of activity, those who are inspired will be involved in planning the development of the final stage of the project - the installation of the Edible Wall. This ensures that the whole community has a say in how the project will evolve.
The second stage of the project is a key piece of work. Having delivered education programmes for the past five years, Farm Urban knows the importance of building robust, engaging activity around the installation of small-scale urban farms, to ensure that there is real community ownership, engagement and long-term potential for their success. Alongside the delivery of stage 1 activities, the Farm Urban team will be developing the content of the 6-week programme to enable participants to fully develop a workable idea for the Edible Wall, learn in detail how to maintain and install it, and ensure that the project is an ongoing success.
Whilst we are incredibly excited to be pioneering this programme at The Brain Charity, by raising the funds to develop it, we are also supporting Farm Urban to create resources to support communities everywhere to be able to follow in our footsteps and do the same. Indoor spaces far and wide filled with fresh, healthy food, managed by local people growing for their local area.
As our project is multi-staged have chosen to run a keep-what-you-raise campaign - ie. we can deliver each stage of the project according to the amount that we raise. So whatever you donate will be put to good use and the more we raise, the more we can deliver.
Whatever we raise we will keep towards our project costs. This means that you are guaranteed to receive whatever reward you pledge for.
Our campaign ends on 11 December 2020. This will give us sufficient time to prepare and post out any rewards due for delivery before Christmas.
Rewards to be sent after Christmas are guaranteed delivery by early March and we do not anticipate any issues around these.
I don’t live in Liverpool - are you doing something that can make a difference in my city?
Our campaign is all about growing healthy, hyper-local, sustainable produce right where we live. But the project is pioneering a programme that we hope to be able to share with people far and wide. If you’re interested in finding out more about Farm Urban’s school and community programmes for your local area feel free to get in touch (their details are below).
I’d like to buy multiple rewards - how can I do this?
Crowdfunder is set up for pledges on single rewards. If you would like multiple numbers of the same reward - for example, a few boxes of greens for gifts for the whole family! - just increase your pledge amount so that it adds up to the total amount and then drop us a message to let us know how many you would like. We will make a note on our records and ensure that we adjust the amount we send.
If you would like to pledge for different rewards you will need to do this making separate pledges using different email addresses. Unfortunately there is no other way around this, but we hope you think it’s worth the effort!
What do I receive for naming a tower?
If you pledge to name a tower in the Edible Wall we will send you a digital voucher before Christmas - a perfect gift idea!
Where can I find out more about The Brain Charity and Farm Urban?
Find out more about The Brain Charity:
Find out more about Farm Urban:
Or check out our TEDx talk