A graduate of Edge Hill University has been sharing some of the findings of her dissertation which includes suggestions that allotment owners might be among the healthiest people in the UK based on their diet.

Almudena Ines Archilla, originally from Spain but now based in Formby, investigated the subject as part of her dissertation during her recent Public Health Nutrition postgraduate course.

An allotment holder, Almudena tapped into existing knowledge as well as access to a sizeable survey base for her subject. The focus was on the motivations for food gardening in the UK, considering the concerns of allotment holders over food affordability, nutrition and food production. She said:

“Production and sustainability of the food system is a topic of great interest to me. It made sense to use the resources and access to volunteers. I wanted to know what was motivating individuals and whether it could be scaled up to improve local production. I am a great advocate for growing your own food.”

Using mixed methods research of online survey, disseminated by The National Allotment Society, and interviews with allotment holders, Almudena was able to gain a deeper understanding of motivations, as well as food consumption habits.

“National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data points at a fruit and vegetable intake of around 4.2 units in the general population”, she notes. “My data suggested a daily average intake of fruit of 2.96 units and a vegetable intake of 3.69 units a day.

“These figures combined would give an average intake of over 6.5 units, well above the target of our ‘five a day’. Although I don’t want to be over-enthusiastic about my results there could be scope for new health campaigns and allotments becoming hubs of knowledge and health promotion.”

Conclusions reached suggested that a key factor in allotment ownership was more concerned with the mental health and wellbeing of the person, as well as the potential quality of produce.

“Enjoyment came from different sources: tastier and fresher produce than what they can get in the shops, activity outdoors, socializing and sharing, relaxing and improving their health are all important.

“A desire to be in control of chemicals added to their food was another motivation. There is a sense that the effort they put into producing makes them waste conscious which moves them to explore preservation methods as well as sharing with their social network any surpluses.”

Almudena moved to the UK in 2001, specializing in community pharmacy having graduated in her specialism four years earlier.

Attracted to pursue further study by the courses on offer in Ormskirk, as well as the help and guidance of Nutrition and Health senior lecturer Kathleen Mooney, she feels it has proved a worthwhile addition to her CV.

“Public Health Nutrition ties in with the changing roles of pharmacists in the community. It has expanded my vision of Nutrition as a simple medical tool to a wider view of problems such as food poverty, food production, sustainability and health inequalities in the UK and worldwide.”

Find out more about studying an MSc in Public Health Nutrition here.