New West therapeutic garden to address food insecurity

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A community learning garden will begin to take shape in Queensborough in the next 48 weeks.

The City of New Westminster, in partnership with the province’s ministry of social development and poverty reduction, GROWcery Food Network Society and the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association, is creating a community therapeutic garden in Queensborough. The garden aims to provide work experience and skills training in carpentry and landscaping for up to 12 eligible participants, while also contributing to food security in the area.

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World Food Day, which was on Oct. 16, aims to create awareness around the problems related to hunger.

“The community learning garden is an important project for the Queensborough neighbourhood, as it provides skills and garden therapy for some of our most vulnerable populations,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said in a news release. “I’m thankful to the province for their help in funding the garden, as well as to our community partners for managing the program as it progresses.”

According to the press release, food insecurity has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing with it homelessness, increased hunger, anxiety and stress for those affected. The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction has provided funding for the community learning garden through WorkBC’s Community and Employer Partnerships, which aims to increase employment opportunities to unemployed British Columbians through partnerships and innovative projects.

 The city has leased a portion of Ryall Park to the GROWcery Food Network Society, who, in partnership with the Canadian Horticultural Society, will manage the program and garden. The garden is located near the Mazarine Lodge supportive housing project.

“We are excited to be offering job preparedness to our participants by providing tangible skills training and imparting food growing skills concurrently, all within the context of a space designed to enhance mental wellbeing,” said Jeremy Dyson, program manager for GROWcery Food Network Society. “We believe the legacy left behind by the program will be immeasurable.”

Program participants will be working on constructing the Community Learning Garden over the next 48 weeks. Following construction, which is anticipated to be completed in July 2021, the community garden plots will be available to the Queensborough community.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA) has seen a dramatic increase in the interest and need for therapeutic gardens and nature-based wellness programs,” said Cheney Creamer, chair of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association. “Having outdoor spaces to care for, where we can grow nutritious food together and socialize at a safe distance, has become an integral key to our community’s well-being. Now is a time for ‘tending and mending’ our health, our relationships, and our environment, and connecting in a therapeutic garden and planting seeds are acts of shared hope and optimism for the future. We look forward to growing together.”

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