Most people think of walls of canned goods when they think of food banks.
But the food bank also supplies fresh fruits and vegetables – which is a challenge when the community gardens that usually donate are covered under blankets of snow.
The Regina Food Bank has found a solution to that problem in its own backyard.
They took an “underutilized structure”, as food bank CEO Steve Compton put it, and converted it into a greenhouse featuring 48 vertical garden towers that each grow 70 plants.
“We’re growing all kinds of different vegetables,” Compton explained to the CJME Morning Show. “We planted a bunch of different things to find out what grows best in the environment that we have.”
We are excited to officially launch our Four Seasons Urban Agriculture Project! Our new greenhouse consists of 48 garden towers! pic.twitter.com/Eh7Nl1De7E
— Regina Food Bank (@ReginaFoodBank) February 2, 2017
Compton said spinach, beans, tomatoes, broccoli and different types of lettuce have all been doing well so far.
“I think if it holds up on cold days like today and tomorrow, which it does, I think we should be just fine.”
Demand up, donations down
Having its own supply of fresh food is the obvious benefit to the Regina Food Bank, particularly as more people turn to the organization for help.
A 2016 hunger count showed more food bank usage across Saskatchewan, including Regina.
“There’s still a lot of pressure on us in this past year and I think you’re going to see that trend continue for a little while unfortunately,” Compton said.
“We’ve seen in Regina that we’re anywhere from eight to nine per cent higher than the month previous a year ago and that trend is actually higher across the province overall.”
Tough economic times mean people donate less. Compton said that’s where an in-house greenhouse comes in handy.
“Any place where we can grow and add to our food supply and add quality items through something like this greenhouse project and get people engaged, I think it’s going to be really important, at least for the short while.”
The greenhouse will be manned by a food bank employee with a green thumb, Compton explained. The food bank will also invite school groups, community groups and avid gardeners from the community.
“We’re going to be doing a lot more outreach about growing your own food in your apartment, in your home, that there’s things that can grow all year indoor and we want to extend that,” Compton said.