Food Bank Garden Patch: Urban Agriculture in the Heart of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Urban agriculture is a new way for the Food banks to supply nutritious emergency food while addressing underlying causes of hunger and food insecurity.
By Alison Robertson
Director of Community Development,
Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre
July 26, 2012
If you are heading through downtown Saskatoon you will happen upon a somewhat unfamiliar sight – businesses owners, police officers, librarians, newcomers to Canada, and perhaps even the City’s mayor – all working together on a 1.5 garden parcel of once vacant land, now transformed into a beautiful, bountiful garden.
These community members from all walks of life have joined forces to grow food for hungry families in Saskatoon.
The Garden Patch is an innovative partnership between the City of Saskatoon and the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre. The City of Saskatoon has adopted a “Garden Site Policy” that allows community organizations to grow food on any vacant municipal land.
Urban agriculture is a new way for the Food banks to supply nutritious emergency food while addressing underlying causes of hunger and food insecurity. The Garden Patch is maintained by volunteer teams consisting of local businesses, public agencies (such as the University and the Saskatoon Police Service), community groups and friends and neighbours. These individuals answered the call to put teams together to “adopt a plot” over the growing season. All the harvested produce comes to the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre for use in emergency food baskets, or is distributed to community schools and organizations for breakfast and lunch programs.
Over the past two years the Garden Patch has produced over 27,000 tons of fresh, healthy food for families who are forced to turn to the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre for help. Adding to their struggles is the presence of a food desert throughout neighbourhoods surrounding downtown, which also have the highest levels of concentrated poverty.
The Garden Patch is so much more than the pounds of produce it grows. Diversity in socio-economic status, ethnic origin and skill levels amongst our volunteers creates a culture of empathy and unity that stretches beyond the garden gates. Whether it’s bankers teaching new Canadians how to pronounce the names of vegetables, or newcomers teaching bankers how to cook with common “weeds”, community members are coming together for the better good and passing skills and knowledge across generational and cultural borders.
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