How Burlington residents are growing the gift of food

Harvest from the Burlington Food Bank plots at Maple Park Community Garden
Harvest from Burlington Food Bank’s dedicated plots at Maple Park Community Garden. Image courtesy of Burlington Food Bank.

Are you one of many gardeners who is growing your own food this year either for enjoyment, to teach your kids or grandkids about where food really comes from (before it gets to the grocery store), or because it is something to do during the pandemic? Depending on what you planted, you’re likely already enjoying the results of your labour.

If you have excess produce, please consider donating it to a local food security agency such as the Burlington Food Bank, Compassion Society, Open Doors of St. Christopher’s, The Salvation Army and Wellington Square United Church as the need this year has increased due to the pandemic. Below are some of the ways you can participate.

BurlingtonGreen’s Grow to Give program

Grow Share and Eat Local image
Image courtesy of BurlingtonGreen.

Since BurlingtonGreen’s Grow to Give program began in 2012, they have grown and donated over 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) of fresh produce to local food security agencies. Due to the pandemic, the Grow to Give program has changed.

BurlingtonGreen has set up weekly collections until the end of October at four different Burlington parks: Central ParkAmherst ParkIreland Park and Francis Road Bikeway (just outside the community garden fence at each location). Anyone, including non-gardeners and restaurants, are welcome to donate fresh produce from their personal or community garden or even purchased produce.

For donation dates and times of clean, dry and unspoiled fresh produce and safety protocols, please visit BurlingtonGreen’s Grow to Give webpage. And as a bonus to you, every time you donate, your name will be entered into a draw for a chance to win a $50 Mountain Equipment Co-op gift card.

Grow a Row program

Burlington resident Beth Martin, founder of Burlington Together (formerly CareMongering Burlington), created Grow a Row as a way for people to contribute to local food security using food they were already growing. The ask was simple: either plant an extra row or designate some of your harvest with the intent to donate it to the Burlington Food Bank.

Thanks to a partnership with Halton Food, Beth was also able to provide seeds to gardeners at community gardens to supplement their row. In addition, the perimeter of the Central Park Community Garden, which was offered by the City’s community garden coordinator, was completely filled with donated plants.

Another local resident, Adria Cehovin, took the lead on organizing a network of volunteers to water, weed and maintain the space. Produce is collected at Central Park Community Garden on Mondays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10 a.m., and then washed, prepared and delivered to the Burlington Food Bank. So far, about 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of produce have been donated, with additional community donations going directly to the food bank regularly.

Grow a Row harvest. Image courtesy of Beth Martin.

Seed packs, and occasionally gardening gloves, have also been placed in Little Free Libraries around the city to help with access to seeds and gloves.

Everything accomplished on this project has been completely due to community donations and the time of volunteers!

Open Doors of St. Christopher’s

The Good Food Community Garden at Open Doors was thrilled when they heard the news that community gardens were deemed an essential source of fresh food. With the guidance and care of their collaborating partner, Halton Food, they were able to redesign the space, recruit a couple of dedicated volunteers, hire summer students and now are beginning to reap the rewards of their hard work.

Fresh picked greens with community gardens in the background
Freshly picked greens from the Good Food Community Garden at Open Doors of St. Christopher’s. Image courtesy of Open Doors.

Christina Mulder, the Open Doors Director of Programs and Partnerships and Alyson Baker, Burlington Garden Manager for Halton Food, have been planning and envisioning a garden that will be completely sustainable. George Willms, a local volunteer, and Nick Campanelli, Open Doors’ summer student have completed the first step in this vision by building a composter for the space. This composter will divert waste from all the food programming at the church and will create rich soil to use in the garden each season.

The food produced in the garden is destined for the Community Meals program that produces 250 meals a week! Due to COVID shutdowns, Open Doors are currently distributing through their partners at Wellington Square United Church.

Alicja, Halton Food’s summer student, has been busy tending to the garden beds and transporting all the delicious fresh good food not used in the kitchen to their partners at Burlington Food Bank. This enables Open Doors to extend their food support further into our community.

Open Doors also support the Grow a Row program and are a drop off location Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Open Doors are excited to #growtogether with their community partners!

Alyson with fresh harvest from Open Doors community garden
Alyson with fresh harvest from the Good Food Community Garden at Open Doors of St. Christopher’s. Image courtesy of Open Doors.

Maple Park Community Garden

The Burlington Food Bank has seven plots tended by volunteers and dedicated for their clients.

Radishes from the Maple Park Community Garden
Harvest from Burlington Food Bank’s dedicated plots at Maple Park Community Garden. Image courtesy of  Burlington Food Bank.

Tips for providing donated fresh produce

Please ensure that food donations are in good condition when delivered so quality fresh food can be passed on to people in need. With the hot temperatures experienced this month, unrefrigerated produce will deteriorate quickly. If possible, please harvest vegetables first thing in the morning when they are hydrated and full of flavour. Clean them from garden soil, dry them and cool them until they are delivered to the Food Bank. Please label all produce donations to help clients build recipes and meal plans.

Take Action Burlington! Donate excess clean, dry and unspoiled fresh produce. Collectively, we can make a difference.

Harvest for Burlington Food Bank
Harvest from Burlington Food Bank’s dedicated plots at Maple Park Community Garden. Image courtesy of Burlington Food Bank.

Thank you to Lisa Dubik (Burlington Food Bank), Beth Martin (Grow a Row), Christina Mulder (Open Doors), Andrea Rowe (Halton Environmental Network) and Kelly Spanik (BurlingtonGreen) for contributing to this post.

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