West Island Solidarity Garden organizers hope to have another bountiful season

Volunteers were getting their hands dirty preparing spring produce boxes on Monday at the Pointe-Claire YMCA. The Y will donate crops from all 10 planters to the West Island Solidarity Community Garden.

After a successful first year, the second edition of the Solidarity Community Garden aims to help the increased amount of families facing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The idea is to grow a row for yourself but then if you can grow an extra row and give part of your harvest back to the West Island food banks,” said Sophie McCann, West Island Community Shares executive director.

Vegetables and fruit are distributed to food banks serving more than 1,000 families each week. Participating community organizations include West Island Mission, On Rock Community Services, West Island Assistance Fund, Corbeille de pain, Marché Solidaire A-Ma-Baie, and L’Équipe Entreprise.

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On Rock Community Services has taken on over 100 new families since the start of the pandemic. President Kim Reid said he sees new people registering each week.

“Every week people are coming, a lot of them who’ve never been to a food bank before,” and he blames the pandemic.

At food banks like On Rock, he says fresh produce is always needed. In this case, when it’s grown locally the product is even better.

“Usually vegetables from a store, they’re on their way out maybe, (now) we’re getting them fresh right up front and that’s amazing.”

West Island Mission’s Executive Director Suzanne Scarrow believes the program ties in a human element that’s been missing because of the pandemic.

Read more: Quebec records 551 new COVID-19 cases in lowest daily tally since September 2020

“As a community organization, it’s overwhelming because the whole community has come together during this pandemic to do what’s right, to make a difference to those struggling to get involved, it’s huge,” said Scarrow.

There’s no registration needed to get involved. It’s as easy as dropping off homegrown produce at participating food banks.

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“It’s simple, it’s easy to do and you just give back to make sure that the families that are suffering can eat healthy meals,” said McCann.

She added cans and boxes only offer so much nutrition and it’s important that they (food banks) offer balanced baskets.

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