West Shore gardeners with more fresh veggies than stomachs to feed can now give their overflow to the Goldstream Food Bank.
The Victoria Compost Education Centre is expanding its “Grow a Row” project to the West Shore and everywhere else in the Capital Region.
Vegetable growers – be it on community plots, balcony planters, backyard gardens or hobby farms – are being encouraged to plant an extra row to help those in need. The compost education centre is offering free gardening workshops every month to get novice green-thumbs up to speed.
“Most people are preparing their gardens now,” said Gundeep Randhawa, Grow a Row program co-ordinator. “We hope people grow a little extra.”
Grow-a-Row, in Canada since the 1980s but launched last summer in Victoria’s Fernwood area, enticed about 47 growers to contribute 147 kilograms of vegetables. The food was donated to Our Place and a Fernwood neighbourhood group.
This year the program has 115 people signed up, and the compost centre is eager to get West Shore residents onboard, including resident to spearhead the initiative into the future.
“We are trying to make this sustainable, so each community continues (Grow-a-Row) on its own,” Randhawa said. “Last year we started small, but now we want to expand across the capital region to the western communities, to Sidney and everywhere.”
The WestShore Teaching Garden and the teaching garden at the Coast Collective art gallery, both in Colwood, are acting as drop off points for the West Shore arm of Grow-a-Row. Participating gardeners can drop of veggies once a week into waiting tubs cooled with ice. Donated vegetables go to the Goldstream Food Bank.
“Food collection is a goal, but there is a higher purpose. We want to teach people how to garden their own food, so people can provide for themselves,” said Marion Wylie, with the Compost Education Centre. “It’s about encouraging food security, and if there is extra, it can be donated.”
Gayle Ireland, president of the Goldstream Food Bank, said fresh vegetables and fruit are a small portion of a food hamper – each person gets two potatoes, two carrots, an onion and an apple. A $25,000 bequeathment to the food bank specifically for fresh fruits and vegetables ran out last year.
“It would be a blessing if anyone came forward with vegetables,” Ireland said. “It’s a good chance to give more nutritious, fresh produce in the hampers.”
The Goldstream Food Bank distributes 350 to 400 food hampers per month, helping 800 to 900 people on the West Shore. The vast majority are seniors and the working people struggling to make ends meet.
To donate to Grow-a-Row or to inquire about gardening workshops, see vicgrowarow.org or call 250-386-9676 (WORM). Drop off points: WestShore Teaching Garden at the WestShore Learning Centre Annex, 2139 Sooke Rd.; the Coast Collective, 3221 Heatherbell Rd.