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Common Ground

CommunityCommunity Issue 6Issue 6Outreach

From spring to fall, on just about any day, someone can be found planting, pruning, watering or weeding at the Grow to Give garden. But the tomatoes they tend to and the green beans they gather won’t end up on their kitchen tables. Instead, these fresh fruits and vegetables are used to feed the members of our community who are less able to afford or access healthy food.

Grow to Give is run by Burlington Green, which is a not-for-profit organization that works with the community to protect the environment and promote sustainable projects in Burlington. The garden was started in 2012 at the Central Park Community Garden in Burlington. Each year, the City of Burlington rents half of the garden plots to members of the community and donates the other half of the garden plots to Grow to Give.

The garden plots are small but the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that Grow to Give is able to produce from them each season and the benefit that this bounty has on the community is enormous. Last year, Grow to Give harvested about 1,300 lbs of produce, from carrots, radishes and beets to tomatoes, peppers and greens, and Andrew Baukham, Program Leader for Grow to Give, says they hope to harvest around the same amount this year, if not more.

After each harvest, Grow to Give brings this bounty to Food for Life, which is a program that collects fresh food, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat, from restaurants, grocery stores and other food suppliers, and distributes it to food banks in Halton. Not only is Food for Life is the largest food recovery program in Halton but it also addresses one of the most challenging issues with food security. Instead of stocking food bank shelves with more pasta, beans and rice, Food for Life fills their fridges with the kind of food that is the healthiest and most nutritious but often the most difficult to access or afford.

With so many affluent communities in Halton, there is a common misconception that food insecurity is not an issue here but Halton Region Health estimates that more than 6,300 families in Halton are not able to access or afford healthy food on a regular basis. These people may not be living in the kind of poverty that we picture when we think about food insecurity—they may be a senior that is living off the last of their retirement savings, a single mother that is earning a minimum wage, a person with a disability that is unable to drive to the grocery store or a person who is unable to work due to illness or injury—but food insecurity is often a serious issue for the people in these situations.

“I decided to volunteer with Grow to Give because not only do I get to learn how to grow organic fruits and vegetables from seed but also, because of the role that I play in watering and weeding, I get to help provide fresh produce to community food banks,” says Darlene Duncan, Graphic Designer at Conservation Halton, who has been volunteering with BurlingtonGreen for ten years and with Grow to Give for two years.

This year, there are 12 volunteers with Grow to Give that each come out to garden once or twice a week to help with whatever needs to be done, from pruning the garlic to watering the greens. Helping out in the garden is a perfect way for volunteers to learn how to grow their own food and pick up some gardening tips.

As Baukham says, there are seniors that come to the garden during the day, parents with babies that come in the afternoon, school children that come throughout the day and people that come on their way home from work in the evening. In this way, the garden itself is a place of common ground. It is a place where the community can meet, where an older generation can teach a younger one how to grow their own food and where people from different parts of the world can share recipes with each other.

At it’s roots, this community is what Grow to Give is all about.

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Last modified: September 7, 2017

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