by Philippa Wood
Building Community Through Food During the Pandemic
For over 20 years, Green Thumbs Growing Kids has proudly maintained 4 garden spaces, in the Regent Park, St. Jamestown and Cabbagetown neighbourhoods, growing food organically with the community.
Like many this year, we were left unsure what the summer would look like in the face of COVID-19. We were not sure if we would have access to the gardens, or be able to interact with the community, right when it was needed most. Food security affects 1 in 5 households in the Regent Park community, compared to 1 in 8 households in Ontario, and this number is only worsening as crucial services have been cut down.
As the summer season comes to an end, we are proud to say that we have grown and harvested over 250lb of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs! With the help of our garden members, and summer staff we have grown over 50 different types of foods including squash, corn, Nyadowa (Garden Egg), tomatoes, eggplant, amaranth, lettuce, lufa, five color peppers, shiso, broadleaf thyme, sage and more!
Top – harvest from Winchester PS garden. Below: this harvest was mostly from the CSI Rooftop (see Dev’s post!) L to R Dev Vyas, Christy Sebastian, Philippa Wood
In the past, we have sold our food at the Regent Park Good Food market, and the Cabbagetown Farmers Market. This year we made it our top priority to donate our food back to the community. As food access becomes more difficult for many, turning to local, accessible, nutritious and culturally relevant foods becomes a necessity. Sharing our food provides more than just a meal for community members. It is a means of connection and education. Community members can see directly what we are growing in our gardens when they cannot visit themselves. We have been able to continue connecting with the community through our space at the Cabbagetown Farmers Market, and by hosting seed and seedling giveaways. By sharing seeds, and seedlings we can decentralize our efforts and bring the garden right to your balcony.
Mothers for Peace is a local organization started in 2017, committed to community engagement and social inclusion. Mothers for Peace works directly with community members to deliver programs in Adult Literacy, Leadership Development, Immigrant Integration, Civic Engagement and Skills Development. Every Friday, our staff has headed to the gardens early to harvest fresh produce, herbs and even seeds for Mothers for Peace. We have provided over 25 CSA baskets to families and community members.
Oahas is a local organization, with its regent park site located at 282 Parliament street. “We re-distribute fresh produce donated to us by Green Thumbs Growing Kids to clients across the city. In Tkaronto, we meet and serve Indigenous people across the city along different parts of their path. Our primary goal is to serve and support Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS. The produce donated to us is made available to the community through contactless pick up or delivery as requested. The response has been amazing, and our community members enjoy eating produce grown either in their neighborhood or city!” -Ames McCloskey, Regional Supervisor
Thank you to Mothers for Peace and Oahas for all the support in helping us distribute our produce to those most in need, and we are looking forward to further developing these connections!
You can still find us at the Cabbagetown Farmers Market, where we have been selling limited produce, and an extensive selection of value added products aimed at improving well-being from home such as tea blends, calendula salves, dried herbs and potted plants. We are also giving away take-home activities for adults and kids including our Kentucky Coffee Tree program, Coloured flower presses and seeds to continue to educate community members and spread our gardens. Come check out our market stand to hear more about what we are doing each Tuesday from 3:00pm-7:00pm at Riverdale Park.
Last Thursday August 27, we were visited by over 40 people, just outside of Rose P.S., where we gave away contactless produce, seeds and potted herbs. We gave away over 30 potted plants including mint, lemon balm, shiso and purslane, as well as individual seed packs of dill, calendula, coriander, tomatoes and lemon cucumbers. These plants grow well on balconies and on window sills.
Despite our COVID challenges we are proud to have the opportunity to grow and share food within our community. We are looking forward to continuing our partnerships and finding more creative ways to share our garden space over the next seasons.