British Columbia

Victoria helps with food production for 1st time since WWII, due to COVID-19 demand

Victoria city council passed a motion Thursday to grow more food plant seedlings in the city’s greenhouses, in order to increase food security for residents with low income, or who’ve lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More residents are interested in growing their own food since start of pandemic, says advisory group

Victoria’s horticulture team works in greenhouses located in Beacon Hill Park. (Adam van der Zwan/CBC)

The city that has been deemed the flower capital of Canada won't be planting as many flowers this year.

Instead, Victoria's city council passed a motion Thursday 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. The baby plants would then be delivered to residents in need, who would continue to grow them.

Victoria councillors say it's the first time the City has helped with food production since the Second World War. 

"Parks staff will be growing between 50,000 and 75,000 food plants in the nursery" located in Beacon Hill Park, as part of an expansion to council's existing Growing in the City initiative, Mayor Lisa Helps announced Thursday. "Growing food is a way to build community, it's a way to feed yourselves and your families," she said.

Helps added that the project would only require City staff to "repurpose a bit of time to respond to a pressing need that we've heard from the community." 

More people want to grow their own food during the pandemic

Aaren Topley, a member of the Victoria Urban Food Table, the city advisory group that brought the idea to council, said there's been an increase in the number of residents interested in growing their own food since the pandemic started. 

"It gets [residents] connecting to the land which I think, as humans, we've done for a very long time, and in moments of scarcity, there's something really empowering about that," he explained. 

Topley said the Urban Food Table conducted a city survey a year ago that found around 300 Victoria households were growing their own food. Based on those numbers, Topley said the group has estimated around 150 to 200 other households might be interested in learning to grow their own food. 

The City of Victoria’s greenhouses, in Beacon Hill Park, will be used to grow up to 75,000 baby food plants, rather than flowers, this Spring. (Adam van der Zwan/CBC)

The group is currently working with the City, School District 61, and local farmers to devise a strategy to deliver the baby plants to residents in a way that follows the Province's physical distancing recommendations. It will also be looking into the capacity for people who don't have backyards to grow their own food. 

Topley added that the Food Table is collaborating with local partners, like the Mason Street Farm and the Compost Education Centre, to decide which kinds of food would be appropriate to grow, and also hopes to put together educational materials for residents on how to care for their plants.

He said he hopes the City will begin the project in the next few weeks.

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