The LMNH Food Hub was created as a response to increased food insecurity in the Mount Pleasant community. With a mission to create a local, community-led food system, LMNH Food Hub aims to increase access to healthy food in a way that promotes dignity, equity and respect. The work is focused around two priority areas: Feeding Our Community and Growing Our Food. LMNH Food Hub runs a weekly Food Distribution program, delivering food hampers and meals to seniors and providing gift cards to families, while creating a welcoming and safe space and facilitating connections. Food Hub also operates Riley Park Community Garden to grow food based on a communal model of gardening, where all the work and all the harvest are shared, while excess produce is donated to the Food Distribution program.
In 2020, LMNH Food Hub launched a new initiative – Yard Garden Harvest Project (YGHP), sparked by an idea from a group of community members. The YGHP has partnered with five caring neighbours to turn their lawns into food scapes and grew an impressive 1266 lbs of produce this past season: the project helps expand spaces to learn how to grow food, deepen community connections, all while increasing access to organic produce for those experiencing food insecurity.
With approximately 100,000 single family and duplex homes in Vancouver, there is enormous potential in scaling up such urban agriculture initiatives through supportive City policy that could also significantly offset both greenhouse gas emissions and vulnerable food supply chains via localized food production. Projects such as the YGHP help to build climate resilience, a foundational principle in the new Vancouver Plan.
We spoke with Breagha Zakaib – Yard Garden Harvest Project Coordinator, about the impacts of the program.
Who provides the garden space?
We have five lovely homeowners who have generously shared their yards with the Yard Garden Harvest Project – there are six yards in total (one house has donated their front and back yard). All of the homeowners are involved in the project in many other ways, beyond generously sharing their yard space: providing photo updates of the yards and volunteers, supplying tools, storage, and work space, participating in farm tasks, art projects, fundraising, and providing connections and community support!
How are the community and volunteers involved?
Besides myself as a coordinator, we are a volunteer and community run program. Volunteers participate in all aspects of growing food: seeding, transplanting, trellis building, pest management, pruning, weeding, harvesting, sign making, promoting biodiversity, irrigation maintenance, and end of season prep. We also have a wide range of leadership opportunities for volunteers who want to take on more responsibility at the Yard Gardens or learn new skills. Some of these include: Garden Lead, Irrigation Lead, Food Literacy Educator, Data Analyst, Social Media Content Creator, Fundraiser etc. We have a wide range of volunteers who all bring something great to the program, and make it the wonderful community it is. Because we are volunteer run, a big part of this program is making sure volunteers have a meaningful experience. This is why we incorporate art and educational workshops, as well as volunteer appreciation events!
What kinds of food were grown and how you decided to grow these?
The Yard Garden is part of the Food Hub at Little Mountain Neighbourhood House, and grows food for the Food Distribution Program. The Yard Garden helps supply roughly 80 households with fresh produce using organic growing methods. We administered a client survey at the food distribution program to decide what food to grow: we asked individuals accessing the Food Distribution program what types of produce they would like to have us grow, and planned our crops based on these results! Brassicas were the favourite crops so we grew a lot (Pac Choi, Gail Lan, Broccoli)! We also grew cherry tomatoes, cucumber, squash, garlic, lettuce, and beans to name a few. This year we planted strawberry transplants and are really looking forward to having fruit for distribution next season!
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of this project?
So many! From meeting passionate and enthusiastic volunteers, interacting with the home owners who are very excited about the program, speaking with curious people on the street about the program who then want to get involved, and seeing the full cycle of food go from the Yard Gardens to the participants at the Food Distribution.
Where do you feel you had the greatest impact?
I think one of the coolest aspects of the program I have seen so far is the way it changes people’s perspectives on space. Whether it be volunteers, homeowners, or individuals passing by, people are surprised and excited to see how much food can be grown in a front yard! Along with that, being able to grow food in, by and for the community is incredible!!
What are your plans for the next year?
We would love to build upon our volunteer base, and work with more people, groups, schools, programs in our neighbourhood, and across the city! We look forward to continuing to grow the beautiful sense of community that has come from meaningful connections, centered around growing food for the neighbourhood.
How can people get involved?
We would like to invite folks to join our mission in growing and providing fresh nutritious food to those who are facing food insecurity in our community. We welcome all ages, and offer volunteering positions ranging from short garden shifts to long-term leadership roles April through October. If you are interested in volunteering, sharing land, or have any questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org