British Columbia

Eager growers to receive 75,000 free vegetable seedlings from City of Victoria

The city passed a motion in spring to grow more food plant seedlings in the city's greenhouses, in order to increase food security for residents with low incomes, or who've lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City started growing more food plants instead of flowers in early spring after the pandemic hit

Robyn Murray picks up some food plant seedlings with her kids, Koru and Sereia. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Free plant seedlings from the City of Victoria's greenhouses have started moving to new homes this week, as part of a measure to increase food security for residents with low incomes, or who've lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The City of Victoria, often dubbed the flower capital of Canada, directed staff grow more food plant seedlings in the city's greenhouses in spring at the start of the pandemic. Councillors said it was the first time since the Second World War that municipal efforts had been diverted to food production. 

The city is now distributing the young seedlings through 30 non-profit organizations. 

Leah Seltzer, with the Lifecycles Project Society, is part of a group that is working with students, staff and teachers in the Greater Victoria School District. 

"When this project got launched, we were able to approach district leadership and say we have this opportunity, and we were able to dovetail on their food hubs and their meal distribution that they had set up during this crisis to add vegetable seedlings as part of [food] distribution," Seltzer said on CBC's All Points West. 

Students from the district are also helping distribute the seedlings, where they learn about urban agriculture and received a work experience credit.

The City of Victoria has around 75,000 free food plant seedlings to distribute. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

She says there has been a lot of excitement surrounding the project.

"We're in a time of uncertainty. People are looking for ways to feel connected and hopeful and to grow more of their own food. This project is helping facilitate that," she said. 

She says in total, the city will distribute 75,000 plants of tomatoes, cucumber, squash, zucchini, lettuce, basil, parsley, swiss chard, kale, and cabbage.

As of Monday evening, 170 families had taken home plants.

Families lined up to get food plant seedlings distributed by the City of Victoria on Monday afternoon. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Robyn Murray was among the families picking up seedlings with her children.

"We have a garden every year and haven't had a chance to plant it yet, so this is a good excuse to come down and get some seedlings so I can get it in this weekend," she said. 

For more information on how you can get a seedling yourself, visit the City of Victoria website.

Listen to the interview with Leah Seltzer on CBC's All Points West:

Back in April, the City of Victoria announced it would use its greenhouse in Beacon Hill Park to grow food. Some of those plants are now are ready to be distributed by community groups. For the next three weeks, seedlings are being given out to families and staff at Greater Victoria schools. Leah Seltzer is the Growing Schools Program Manager with the LifeCycles Project Society and she spoke with Kathryn Marlow about the program. 7:25

 

With files from All Points West

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