Community-led initiative at King’s continues to thrive

The Lambeth GP Food Co-op helps reduce social isolation by bringing people together

Gordon Hutchins

The Lambeth GP Food Co-op – set up in 2013 by local NHS doctors and nurses – continues to be a social lifeline for many patients, as social activities reconvene following the relaxation of COVID restrictions.

The vegetable gardens near Jennie Lee House at King’s College Hospital, is designed to support local patients with long-term health conditions to learn how to grow food and, by doing so, improve their health and wellbeing.

The group sell their freshly grown produce to local residents and patients, with all profits reinvested into maintaining similar gardens across Lambeth.

The close-knit group recently remembered a former member, Gordon Hutchins, who sadly passed away last year at the age of 87, at a special memorial held at King’s.

After being diagnosed with a long-term condition, Gordon joined the Lambeth GP Food Co-op in 2016 and was a prominent member of the group.

Following his death, Gordon’s family disclosed that the King’s patient had, in fact, played a significant role in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, which led to the release of Nelson Mandela.

Gordon travelled to South Africa in the late 1960s as part of a group of volunteers, now famously known as the London Recruits, who posed as tourists. The group worked covertly to assist the African National Congress (ANC) party during apartheid. Gordon worked with his fellow volunteers to spread anti-apartheid leaflets and cassettes to revive the party’s presence after its members - including leader Nelson Mandela - were imprisoned. The group, including Gordon himself, was later recognised as a hero in South Africa.

Gordon’s memorial marked his significant contribution to the historic movement, as well as his unwavering support for King’s and the NHS.

Flora Gordon, who manages the garden at Jennie Lee House, reflected on the time she spent with Gordon and said: “Gordon was the heart and soul of our gardening group at King’s. It was clear to me from our first meeting that he was caring and compassionate and he would often share ideas on how we could expand the garden to help more people.”

Flora added: “As a co-operative of patients, doctors, nurses and Lambeth residents who grow food together, we have members from all walks of life.

“Our aim is to help improve the lives of local people living with multiple long-term conditions as we know community interventions like this helps to reduce social isolation by bringing people together. They can help ease the pressure on health and social care services."