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Launched by the Regina Food Bank on Wednesday, the Urban Agriculture Outreach Program is aimed at giving students and educators a better understanding of where our food comes from and how it’s grown and produced.
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Sep 20, 2017 • September 20, 2017 • 2 minute read • Join the conversation Photo by Jennifer Ackerman /Regina Leader-Post
Parents may notice a few green thumbs coming home from school over the next few months, as students across the city begin a new urban agriculture initiative.
Launched by the Regina Food Bank on Wednesday, the Urban Agriculture Outreach Program is aimed at giving students and educators a better understanding of where our food comes from, and how it’s grown and produced.
There is “room to grow” when it comes to improving young people’s connection with the food they eat, said Steve Compton, the food bank’s CEO.
Garden towers — which hold up to 72 plants and take up about four square feet of space — and growing kits will be provided to 15 schools and community organizations to grow their own healthy produce. The program runs until the end of next summer, but Compton hopes it will eventually become permanent.
Brett Matlock is a teacher at St. Gregory Elementary School. He and a handful of students attended the launch of the new program. He said it’s important for students to get involved in projects like these in order to contribute to the community’s social fabric.
“It’s important to be engaged, active citizens who are advocates for social justice in any capacity,” said Matlock. “I think it’s important for them to take responsibility for their future because they are the future, essentially. So if they don’t start now, when are they going to start?”
Students will help water and tend to the garden towers, including working with worms — something to which 12-year-old Olivia Pearce is looking forward.
“I think it’s really interesting and it’s cool to learn about how we grow food in Saskatchewan,” she said. “It will help make a better community.”
Pearce said learning about how much work goes into growing and producing the food we eat will undoubtedly give her a greater appreciation for food and make her more careful about wasting it.
The program is part of a larger initiative begun last February called the Urban Agriculture Project — a 2,400-square-foot greenhouse that is home to 48 garden towers growing produce for food bank users.
It is a project that is more important than ever right now, as the number of people needing food bank services is on the rise. The food bank saw 40 new clients just last week, numbers Compton said it hasn’t seen for quite some time and are concerning as the busy Christmas season approaches.
The Mosaic Company has contributed $50,000 to expand the project outside the greenhouse and into the community. The kits provided to the schools and community organizations include lights, aprons, garden gloves, heat mats, seeds, a watering can, Miracle-Gro, mini shovels and spades and much more.
“I’m looking forward to them actually being hands-on and getting the experience of doing it,” said Matlock. “It correlates so well with so many aspects and components of the curriculum.” As a school that utilizes inquiry-based learning to engage the students, he said it’s a perfect fit.
A major benefit of the program is the ability to grow produce year round because of the tower style of gardening and the heating supplies included in the kit.
“So when the traditional gardening season ends, it’s a community place where they can come together and get involved,” said Compton.
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