Food for Thought Blog
Growing Possibilities in a Community Garden
Good things are growing alongside the food assistance program at the Sunnydale Community Centre, as a budding community garden has taken root.
Households accessing the Neighbourhood Food Program at Sunnydale Community Centre – run by the House of Friendship – are using the community garden as an opportunity to learn, have fun, and connect with their community.
A Garden for Community to Grow
Throughout the summer and early fall, the Flower Rangers, a group of youth aged 5 to 14 years old have been meeting with House of Friendship staff Evan Vandermeer, Nazmi Elkawash, and Maggie Cahill to maintain the garden. Together, the Flower Rangers have been growing fresh fruits and vegetables and cultivating mushrooms in a greenhouse.
“What I have found to be one of the best aspects of the garden is how it has been able to engage more than just the children in the area,” explained Maggie Cahill, Community Development Worker, House of Friendship. “We have five high school students from the community who help us lead the garden programs each week and gain volunteer hours in the process. A few parents have also gotten pretty involved – after some sessions when we finish our time in the garden with the children, the parents will head into the garden to help continue the weeding, watering and harvesting. It truly is a community garden!”.
Staff at the Sunnydale Community Centre have been connecting community members from House of Friendship’s Neighbourhood Food Program to the community garden. As individuals and families access the Sunnydale Community Centre for food assistance, they also walk past the garden to encourage and support the Flower Rangers.
Planting the Seed to Build Community
Waterloo Region Housing broke ground on the garden in June 2021, with the understanding that the House of Friendship had the capacity to run programming for local children and youth. By mid-July, 40 local children – as part of the Flower Rangers – were actively engaged in maintaining the garden.
Community gardens benefit the community as they:
- increase availability and accessibility of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
- help people learn and develop new skills.
- create and encourage outdoor activities.
- provide an an inclusive meeting area for the community to come together
- beautify neighbourhood(s).
- support pollinators.
Connecting Community to Food and Other Vital Supports
The House of Friendship connects community members to a wide range of resources, such as food assistance, after-school programs, community support groups, as well as summer camp sponsorship.
This Flower Ranger garden is just one example of how food can bring people together to build community and be used as a point of connection to access other vital resources.
“Now that the garden is in place, we are looking forward to getting the planning, community involvement, and gardening started earlier next year, so we can take advantage of the full growing season,” said Maggie.
In Waterloo Region, there is a collaborative network of 100+ community programs and agency partners – known as the Community Food Assistance Network – working together to provide access to emergency food and other vital supports to people when and where they need it.