The Salvation Army in Port Alberni has kicked off a new campaign designed to increase fresh produce for the food bank and foster goodwill in the community. Grow a Row to Share encourages gardeners to plant an extra row in their gardens this summer to share their vegetable bounty with others through the food bank.
Salvation Army Major Bruce MacKenzie was at the Harbour Quay Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning (May 5) handing out seed packets, Grow a Row garden stakes and information on the campaign.
In Port Alberni, more than 500 families and individuals look to the Salvation Army food bank to help them through touch times. Fresh produce is one of the hardest things for food banks to provide and is often one of the last thing low income families can afford, MacKenzie said.
Grow a Row gives families an opportunity to eat wholesome, fresh produce and a balanced, nutritional diet, he said.
“We had quite a few people stop by and a number of people volunteer to take seeds and grow vegetables,” MacKenzie said. There are still some seed packets and stakes available at the Salvation Army office on Fifth Avenue at Redford Street. The Salvation Army welcomes any extra vegetables grown this summer, not just those from seeds the Army has provided, he added.
“One of the natural results of this isn’t about putting food in grocery baskets, it’s about growing community,” MacKenzie said.
The Salvation Army and other stakeholders in the health care field have discussed the correlation between obesity and diabetes and the growing reliance on food banks, and in Port Alberni are making an effort to ensure food bank clients get a balanced diet.
That doesn’t just mean providing fresh fruit and vegetables, it also means giving the tools to people to teach them how to eat well. “It’s wanting more fresh vegetables in the food bank, for sure,” MacKenzie said. “But it’s also an investment in the community. When kids have access to fresh, wholesome food in their diet their physical and cognitive development is boosted.
“That simple act will pay dividends 15, 20 years from now. It’s actually investment in children in the community as much as anything else.”
In addition to launching Grow a Row the Salvation Army is also hosting a seminar later this week for food bank clientele on container gardening. The 23 people who have signed up so far will learn how to create a container garden and how to care for their plants, MacKenzie said.
For more information on Grow a Row, please call the Salvation Army at 250-723-6913, or visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/growarow2012.
Vegetables can be dropped off Monday through Thursday at the food bank on Fourth Avenue at Redford Street. MacKenzie reminds people that Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are busy as they are distribution days.