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Plot to provide produce for food bank

A new garden plot will be educating minds and feeding the mouths of those in need this summer.

A new garden plot will be educating minds and feeding the mouths of those in need this summer.

When the Healthy Okotoks Coalition was making plans to expand the community garden at the end of McRae Street, the organization approached the Okotoks Food Bank to offer a 20-metre by 10-metre plot to grow produce for its clients.

Shelia Hughes, executive director of the food bank, said they were eager to jump on board. With a $5,000 grant from the 2017 +Fresh Community Garden Fund offered by Compass Group Canada and Food Banks Canada, they were able to make the garden a reality.

“The grant will support our new community learning garden project, which will help us provide fresh foods for families accessing the food bank and promote a healthier community,” said Hughes.

With the help of the Okotoks Garden Club, the Food Bank is planting a garden of fresh vegetables including staples like potatoes, onions and carrots. Raised beds will house garlic and a pollinator garden that will benefit not only their own plants, but those in surrounding community garden plots, said Hughes.

It will be called the Okotoks Food Bank Community Garden, because there will be learning opportunities for the community in addition to food for its client base.

Hughes said the Okotoks Food Bank has decided to provide activity totes that will be interactive and correlate to school curriculum after meeting with the Lethbridge Interfaith Food Bank, which runs an educational component in its community garden.

“There will be materials in there that groups or schools can borrow,” she said. “They can use them down at the community garden and learn about things like compost, pollinator gardens, insects, plants, daily life, water, soil, food chains, healthy eating, that kind of thing.”

Hughes said she’s pleased to be able to offer additional food for families accessing the food bank as well. It may be an opportunity to provide something not always included on a regular basis in hampers, she said. Families may be able to learn from the garden as well by volunteering their time to help maintain it, she said.

It will be a good reminder to people that the food bank does take fresh produce, said Hughes.

“We’re hoping as people realize that we’re growing food and we can have a lot of fresh produce for our families that they maybe will plant a row as well for us, and we’ll get some of that from people planting their own gardens,” she said.

It’s all part of the fresh food initiative the food bank has been running, she said, which is a move toward balancing the amount of fresh food and the number of non-perishable items provided. Some of those items include green vegetables such as peas, beans, swiss chard, kale and rhubarb, she said.

“It will also save us money from not having to buy as much produce to keep that balance,” said Hughes. “And it will give our families access to foods they may not go buy themselves from the grocery store.”

Hughes said looks forward to seeing how the garden works out in its first year.

“It’s sort of our next step into reaching out into the community,” she said. “It’s not just about us, it’s about providing for the community, and we’re hoping some of the more experienced gardeners will be willing to teach us.”


Krista Conrad

About the Author: Krista Conrad

Krista Conrad is the news reporter for Okotokstoday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper covering Okotoks and Foothills County. For story tips contact kconrad@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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