Even though snow is still on the ground, Brampton residents are being encouraged to grow a little bit extra when planning this year’s vegetable gardens.
Earlier this week, Brampton launched its fourth annual Backyard Garden Program, which collects excess produce and herbs to help support local community organizations.
“We asked that any additional produce be donated to local food banks as sort as a pay it forward,” Brampton Community Services coordinator Jessica Skup said.
The program was created at the start of the pandemic by former Brampton Councillor Doug Whillans. He thought it would be a great idea to help and encourage people to start gardening in their own homes.
Participants will each receive a garden sampler seed kit which includes three different types of seeds and five bags of soil.
“Participants were given a list of local food banks and we left it up to them to donate at their convenience,” Skup said.
“We are excited to welcome back the Backyard Garden Program and build on the success of last year’s 7,000 lbs. of produce donated,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said in a press release. “I look forward to seeing all that 2023 yields!
Local food banks and organizations have been receptive and have praised the program for its help in combating poverty.
Regeneration Outreach Community Service’s Mandeep Singh absolutely loves the Backyard Garden program.
“We actually receive donations of different vegetables from the Backyard Garden at our marketplace location which allows us to help feed 500 families,” Singh said.
“We appreciate their donations considering how helpful it is to us and how much it benefits the communities we serve. With inflation, many families and individuals are depending on food banks and the Backyard Garden’s contribution has helped significantly.”
Valerie Steele, coordinator for the Heart Lake Food Cupboard, feels the same. Steele says they’re a smaller facility and have provided food support to the north part of Brampton for about ten years.
“We get a lot of non-perishable donations in terms of the pasta and the canned food, etc. But to be able to give them the perishable items as well is amazing,” Steele said.
“They come to pick up their food, and they can see that it literally came from across the parking lot in the garden. It makes them feel like they are seen and heard because we’re giving them something that is fresh.”
Skup said the program has no way of knowing how much of the soil or seeds it gives away produce food that ultimately ends up being donated.
“I suppose the biggest challenge we have is that it is the honour system so we don’t check up on the participants,” Skup said. “And there has been some dishonestly regarding the program such as not using the soil and seeds for gardening.”
Last year the program had 2,921 participants. They also had 14,635 bags of soil and 5,836 packages of seeds donated.