St. Lucia

Kitchen Gardens Feed the Belly and the Soul

Residents of the St. Lucy Home for the Elderly on the West Indian island of Saint Lucia have been enjoying a bounty of freshly grown vegetables that are adding flavor and valuable nutrients to their diets.

Thanks, in part, to the efforts of the 50-member strong Castries Lions Club, an array of vegetables, including broccoli, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage and lettuce, are growing in a 300-square-foot kitchen garden on the property.

people in a circle holding box of seedlings
Lions present seedlings to residents of Corner Stone Halfway House.

The project to provide healthy foods to vulnerable residents like those at the home took root in December 2020 when Castries Lions provided seedlings for the garden.

St. Lucia has recently made efforts to improve sustainability on the island – a problem which has been highlighted by slowed food imports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen drastic reductions in the quantity of food available in our local market,” says Castries club president Christopher Emmanuel. “It prompted many local residents to embark on growing their own kitchen gardens.”

A group called Recover St. Lucia was formed to help fight the pandemic. One of its efforts, “Eat What We Grow,” is encouraging residents throughout the island to reduce their food costs by tending their own gardens.

“This initiative is helping St. Lucians grow more of our local foods and reduce our food import bill,” Emmanuel says.

Castries Lions saw an opportunity to help residents who didn’t have their own yards for gardens – St. Lucy’s Home for the Elderly and Cornerstone House in Castries, which provides food and shelter for the homeless.

Men asses seedlings in garden
Kitchen gardens give residents of the St. Lucy Home for the Elderly fresh produce for a healthy diet.

The Lions already provided hot meals to the residents of the two homes on a monthly basis, and they knew a kitchen garden would enable them to get basic food items fresh from their backyard.

While the garden at St. Lucy’s Home is overseen by administrator Silvestre Phillip, a former agricultural science teacher, and by a gardener employed by the home, about 10 residents who have the ability to get around are also helping to tend the garden.

“We see this as a form of therapy for those participating,” says Phillip. “The residents are also very happy to consume nourishing food that they produce in their own kitchen garden.”

For other clubs considering starting a similar project, Emmanuel has some advice.

“First, speak to the homes or organizations that you want to help to ensure this is a project that they require and that will be helpful to them,” he says. “Then conduct a survey of the property to be sure that it will be suited to a garden.”

He also advises working with a local agricultural extension officer or other expert who can provide technical guidance, and he suggests keeping track of it as it grows.

“Be sure to monitor the project to ensure the garden is going as planned,” Emmanuel says. “Replenish the seedlings so it can be sustainable.”

Emmanuel says his club is pleased to help the island’s most vulnerable residents thrive by consuming a healthy diet.

“This project provides residents with a constant supply of locally-grown organic food that will augur well for their balanced diets,” he says. “It will also help decrease the cost of their monthly food bills.”