Container Gardening Improves Food and Nutrition for Vulnerable Families

by The Salvation Army in Canada
Categories: Newswire, ONG News

In Guelph, Ont., The Salvation Army’s container-gardening program gives people on a tight budget the chance to grow food on their own.

According to Statistics Canada’s most recent consumer price index report, fresh vegetable costs rose 11.7 percent year-over-year in April. The rising cost of food is making it more and more difficult for vulnerable people to provide their families with healthy meals.

“Many of our clients don’t have access to large yards or gardens,” says Mark Halliday, program coordinator for The Salvation Army in Guelph. “We provide them with soil, containers and plants so they can turn the smallest of spaces, such as balconies or patios, into gardens that improve their food security and nutrition.”

Every year, 80+-year-old Garnett Clayton grows and donates hundreds of tomato, cabbage, pepper plants and more to the program, which begins in May with a container- planting event.

“When I would give food to clients at our family services office I’d often say to myself, ‘I could show them how to grow their own food,’” says Halliday, a land and resource science graduate from the University of Guelph. “We are in our fourth year of teaching basic gardening and the program is increasing in popularity.”

Participants choose what plants they want to grow. They learn about drainage, how many plants can fit in one pot, conditions that help the plant stay healthiest, when to water and more.

“After the event we give out containers and soil until we run out,” says Mark. “That often happens when clients come to our office for other services. The container-gardening program has opened up opportunities for The Salvation Army to build connection and trust with people in our community. We have a genuine interest in knowing and helping them.

“Through a simple container we are improving lives. Participants find the program is rewarding, fun and gives them a new source of hope.”