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Garden will enhance nutrition of food bank hampers

Thursday, 18 May 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Garden will enhance nutrition of food bank hampers
Rotary member Bob Compton stocks food bank shelves.   Photos by Auralea Boldt

Garden will enhance nutrition of food bank hampers

By Auralea Boldt

“I happen to think having access to adequate food is a human right,” says Ria Firth. “The better nutrition we have, the more resilient and vibrant our society is going to be.”

Ria is the co-ordinator for the Junction food bank in Pincher Creek, which McMan Youth, Community and Family Services operates with support from the Town and MD of Pincher Creek and from Napi Friendship Centre.

The food bank can supply enough food for those facing food insecurity for five to seven days each month, but it is not of the nutritional quality Ria would like to see.

In conjunction with McMan, Pincher Creek Food Security and the Wellness Committee, the Rotary Club plans to start a community garden for the food bank this spring.

The club has put the Junction high on its list of causes. Rotary has already purchased a freezer and fridge for the food bank, and has sourced local food donations.

The Town of Pincher Creek has given permission for the lot beside the food bank — earmarked for future affordable housing — to be used as a garden.

Produce from the garden will become part of the food clients receive when they visit the Junction, in an effort to enhance the nutritional value of hampers.

Growing food is a decision that will also maximize the food bank’s limited budget.

“Transportation costs are always going to increase,” Ria says. “The closer we can be, the higher quality the food will be, the greater value of the money we are putting out goes towards food.”

Rotary Club president Dan Crawford thinks the project could potentially teach gardening skills to interested people who never had the opportunity to learn.

Ria Firth agrees.

“I would hope clients would be inspired by the general activity happening, and want to learn,” she says. “It could give them a sense of control and understanding about how they can create more food choices through gardening, even if it’s a windowsill full of herbs.”

Donations would help the project get up on its feet: dirt, gardening tools, hoses, a sprinkler, spare planters, plants that have been started indoors, a shed, and materials for a fence to keep the deer out.

Dan sees a social aspect to the garden. He pictures the community coming together to grow and tend the garden, and even the creation of a hang-out area next to the garden — complete with picnic tables.

He’s not exactly sure how the day-to-day operation of the garden will run, but is confident everything will come together in due time.

“In my perfect little world there’s going to be a whole bunch of people who just want to help,” he says.

He sees the garden as the first step in a larger vision, one that could include a course on how to make nutritious food as the next step and, in time, a soup kitchen using vegetables from the garden.

He likes that the garden is a tangible first step that the community can see in action.

Ria sees growing food and making nutritious meals as an endangered life skill for many people — not limited to those facing food shortages. She sees a gap where several generations of working parents have not been able to pass on “food-intelligent skills.”

Non-nutritional food is a “drain on the health-care system,” Ria says, and highlights the relationship between early childhood development and good nutrition — a viewpoint that scientific literature supports.

Recently the Junction has seen many first-timers with long professional histories behind them. They cannot find work and their employment benefits have run out.

“Hard times can happen to anybody,” Ria says.

Forty per cent of users in March were homeowners. Sixty-one per cent were those with disabilities, and 38 per cent had medical issues, she adds.

“The vast majority have not capacity to get work that is sufficient, or receive benefits that are sufficient to meet basic needs,” Ria says.

Both Dan and Ria believe the current economic climate is helping to combat the myth that food bank use is an “issue of character rather than circumstance.”

“The type of food we are giving out is not gourmet. It’s not something you would choose if you had any other option,” says Ria.

To volunteer or to donate to the Junction, call 403-627-2014. You can also visit the food bank, open for hamper service on Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m., at 659 Main St.

The local community does an excellent job of supporting the Junction through its volunteers and financial support.

The town can even be considered a vanguard for other communities.

“A lot of other communities look to Pincher Creek to see how they are doing things,” Ria says.

Food Bank 1
Helping at the Junction food bank last week were, from left, Rotarians Cliff Elle, Anna Eggert, Karin Buhrmann, Dan Crawford, David Simmons, Ken Butler and Bob Compton.              

Read more in this week’s online edition here.
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From the May 17, 2017 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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