Nova Scotia

Students partner with Glace Bay Food Bank to grow food for clients

Rising numbers of clients have prompted the Glace Bay Food Bank to enlist the help of local students to expand the offerings in its backyard garden.

Rising numbers of clients prompted the food bank to expand garden offerings

Student Rebecca MacMullin poses with some of the plants students are growing at school to transplant to the food bank garden. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Rising numbers of clients have prompted the Glace Bay Food Bank to enlist the help of local students to expand the offerings in its backyard garden.

"More and more people are using our service," said Sandra MacPherson, the food bank co-ordinator.

"We see new people coming in and telling us how hard it is and when you're trying to put a roof over your head it's getting more and more difficult all the time." 

Getting students involved

This season, staff have been teaching junior high and high school students how to grow food that can be used at the food bank.

MacPherson said it's a new idea for the food bank and a unique way to get young people involved in fighting the child poverty staff see on a daily basis. 

Kimberly MacPherson runs the garden, and teaches at Oceanview Education Centre and Glace Bay High.

Garden coordinator Kimberly MacPherson stands in the food bank garden. (George Mortimer/CBC)

"We recently had a grade 10 co-op class come out. They built two boxes for us, we taught them how to build rows, how to plant," she said, "A lot of them never planted before." 

"It was a very big deal for them to be part of their community and being able to help out." 

"We're getting different people from all over the Island to speak to the students as well as planting and getting ready," she said. 

Garden produced 227 kg of food last year

The food bank's garden now contains many varieties of vegetables, including radishes, snap peas, lettuce and tomatoes.

MacPherson said last year they grew 227 kilograms of food in the small area behind the food bank on Hector Street.

Students at Oceanview are spending their Wednesday evenings learning how to garden and help the food bank. Grade 7 student Rebecca MacMullin said it's great.

"In previous years we've helped the food bank out with food, last year we gave money to them to build the garden and this year we're helping them with the garden so I think that's important," she said.

"It's helping our community."

She said it also helps students become aware of child poverty in the community.

'I just want to help'

"I think it's important because it's something so simple and you're helping a lot of families. I would want someone to do the same for me. I'm lucky: I have resources, I have food, I just want to help the kids who aren't so fortunate."

"My mom has a garden at home, and I find it interesting, how to plant and stuff. I find it fun," said Grade 6 student Carolyn McPherson.

Rebecca MacMullin, Ana MacLean, Carolyn McPherson and Brooke Rowe are junior high students learning to grow food for the food bank. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Brooke Rowe is also in Grade 6, and said she enjoys the work and learning about healthy eating.

"I think I'm going to learn like how to take care of plants and what to feed them," she said.

Oceanview school secretary Valerie Livingstone works with the students on the garden.

"They grow the plants here, [and] in June they'll transplant them to the food bank garden and then in the fall they'll go down and help the harvest," she said.

Doing their part

She said it's helpful to teach the students about child poverty.

"They understand it, even at 12, 13, 14, years of age. They know it's in their community, they hear about it, they see it and they appreciate the fact that they're helping to battle it and they're doing their part."

Sandra MacPherson said the food bank is now feeding 70 people every day in their dining room and sending out 360 orders each month. She said that's a 10 per cent increase over this time last year.


George Mortimer is a longtime reporter in Cape Breton.