Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism digs deep for food bank

Potatoes grown in the vegetable garden at Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism are headed for the food bank's Thanksgiving hampers.
Megan Marshall, Transitions Program co-ordinator, lends a helping hand to Sadie as they dig potatoes for Bridges to Hope food hampers. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Potatoes grown at the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism vegetable garden are headed for the Bridges to Hope's Thanksgiving hampers. 

Clients at the autism centre harvested some of those potatoes Thursday.

Megan Marshall, the centre's Transitions Program co-ordinator, and her group volunteered at the food bank for eight months last year and saw first hand that there was a need for vegetables.

"One thing we realized while stocking their shelves and preparing their hampers for their clients was that they lacked produce," said Marshall.  "It's all canned goods and boxed goods."

The autism centre has such a large garden and they wanted to give something back to the food bank to say thank you. 

"They were so good to us letting us volunteer, letting us learn and fail. All of the things that happen when you try new things," Marshall told CBC's St. John's Morning Show. "So we came back here and built four, ten-by-ten garden beds and shoved them full of potatoes."

Bridges to Hope community chef Chad Coombs will also use the donated potatoes in meals for clients. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Chad Coombs, the community chef at Bridges to Hope, said clients are amazed to be getting fresh locally grown vegetables.

"The fact that they're getting locally grown vegetables from people that have nurtured them and cared for them and they're getting them regardless of who they are or what walk of life … they're actually really blown away," said Coombs.

'It works both ways'

Partnering with Bridges to Hope gives the food bank fresh produce, but Marshall said the food bank gets to see autism in a different light.

"They get to see that persons with autism are very capable people in their community," said Marshall. "That people with autism can work can be engaged, can be involved, it works both ways."

Clients at the autism centre also learn and grow from the experience. Marshall said they love being outdoors, learning new skills and their social skills blossom.

"There is a lot of team work involved in gardening and farming and they love knowing that their food is going back to a place that they volunteer," said Marshall. "So it's quite a full circle opportunity."

To date, the group has harvested 110 pounds of potatoes. Marshall hopes to get in a few more harvests to add to that amount.