Mayor encourages those with space to plant extra vegetables for Winnipeg Harvest amid surge in demand
In the first month of the pandemic, demand for food was up 30 per cent at Winnipeg Harvest
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is calling on people in the city to grow extra vegetables to help people struggling to get enough nutritious food during the pandemic.
This year, the city is working with Winnipeg Harvest's Grow-A-Row program, which has yielded millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables for people in need, Bowman said at a news conference on Friday.
"As our thoughts turn to our yards and gardens, we are encouraging Winnipeggers to consider applying that volunteer spirit when making their planting decisions by growing some extra food for those who need it in our community," he said.
"This year's gardening season is more important than ever."
Staff at Winnipeg Harvest have seen the need first-hand.
In the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for food was up 30 per cent, Harvest CEO Keren Taylor-Hughes said, with 81 per cent of the new patrons recently laid off.
In addition, staff haven't been able to tend the garden because they've been focused on packaging and distributing emergency food hampers, she said.
"With gardening season about to begin, growing a row for Harvest would be a great way for the community to help fill our food gap," Taylor-Hughes said.
The city is growing its own vegetables for Harvest at city hall this year.
Coun. Brian Mayes, chair of the Winnipeg Food Council, said although he's not much of a gardener, he and his family also plan to start a backyard garden this summer.
More local 'food hubs'
The city also is providing more pickup and drop-off spots for local farmers selling their products during the pandemic.
These food hubs are designated locations for farmers, or groups of farmers, to arrange scheduled drop-off or pickup times with their customers, said Phil Veldhuis, president of Direct Farm Manitoba, a member-owned co-operative of direct marketing farmers and farmers markets.
The new food hubs will allow farmers some space so there aren't too many people congregating in one spot, he said.
The plan includes having all existing farmers markets in the city online by the time they're scheduled to open.
"Hopefully Winnipeggers will show up and support them," Veldhuis said.
They will open in June and continue through to the fall harvest season.