London·Sounds of the Season

The London foodbank opened a greenhouse last year. Here's what that's meant for the community

For Luis Reyes, growing fresh produce to help feed the hungry is a “dream come true.” 

Greenhouse operations could help ease hunger in light of food price inflation

Agronomist Luis Reyes is lead gardener for the London Food Bank's main greenhouse. (Angela McInnes/CBC)

For Luis Reyes, growing fresh produce to help feed the hungry is a "dream come true." 

Reyes, an agronomist hailing from Chile, is the lead gardener for the London Food Bank's greenhouse operation which opened last year. 

The 30 by 17 foot greenhouse, located behind the Food Bank, has produced tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, broccoli, carrots, okra, beets, lettuce, kale and more within 1,400 one-gallon grow boxes. The food is sent out to clients on the same day it's harvested to ensure they are receiving the best possible nutrition. 

"I think it's the best thing in the world to have this kind of opportunity to work in this kind of situation," said Reyes. 

The 30 ft by 17 ft greenhouse produces fruits and veggies within 1,400 one-gallon grow boxes. (Angela McInnes/CBC )

The London Food Bank's main greenhouse runs throughout the year, allowing for growth in any weather condition. 

The project was first announced during CBC's Sound of the Seasons program less than two years ago. Glen Pearson, who serves as executive director of the London Food Bank, said that announcement sparked a wider interest among Londoners to grow and donate even more fresh food for those in need. 

One of the greenhouse "grow walls," where an array of leafy greens are waiting to be harvested. (Angela McInnes/CBC)

While the City of London requires permits for large greenhouses, it's possible to have smaller ones at 12 by 20 feet and 12 by 40 feet. 

With the help of the Business Cares Food Drive, 15 of those smaller greenhouses were build this summer for other community programs. Three greenhouses at St. Aidan's Anglican Church grew specifically for the London Food Bank. 

"We had our biggest month in all of our 35 year history in November," said Pearson. "So we've got probably 9,000 people coming to us each month and they all really want fresh fruit. And so for them to be able to have it is not only meaningful to the people donating, but to the clients themselves. That's what they want."

These strawberries will be enjoyed by one of the food bank's clients as soon as they are ripe. (Angela McInnes/CBC)

The London Food Bank is now bracing for even more clients within the next 12 months. Canada's Food Price Report forecasts that family grocery bills will see a rise of between five and seven per cent - or an extra $966 a year.

Supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and weather events such as the heat dome are key contributors to the anticipated price hikes.

Fresh Food Coordinator Mike Bloxam pointed out that the elimination of government assistance programs, such as CERB, will also lead to more dependence on the service. 

The greenhouse is located at the back of the London Food Bank. (Angela McInnes/CBC)

The Food Bank will continue to rely on numerous initiatives, including one that diverts grocery store food from going to the landfill. There are also plans in the works to expand the community greenhouse network. 

You can donate to the London Food Bank by making a financial contribution on its website, or by dropping off food donations. Click here for a list of its most-needed items.  

(CBC)

Sounds of the Season is our annual fundraiser in support of the London Food Bank. It's also a chance to take a closer look at the reasons people in our city are in need, and the steps being taken to help them. 

Last year, Sounds of the Season raised over $13,000 in donations and almost 500 lb of food. Please help us top that this year!

Donate directly to the London Food Bank now!

You can access Feed Ontario's 2021 Hunger report here.

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