SustainLowertown addresses food security
If you can't sustain your neighbourhood and community, how can you sustain yourself? That's what SustainLowertown participants asked themselves this year when spring arrived.
Consequently, they have developed a "sustain your neighbourhood project" in Lowertown, and called it SustainLowertown. Their ultimate goal is building community and offering inclusive opportunities for everyone to be involved.
SustainLowertown reinforces their idea of community and support for all residents. The variables to ensure success are first, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, second, to help residents save money, and third, to support community engagement in local initiatives designed to bring people together.
This project is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and delivered to the community by EnviroCentre in three phases designed to last three years. Sustain Your Community is aiming to get five different Ottawa Communities involved.
SustainLowertown plans to first support projects specifically designed to build food security in the area. With food security in mind, and an ever-growing concern for continued sustenance, the group's Lowertown Action Committee agreed they would focus on themes concerning food for the first year of the project.
This year the Committee is hoping to support the Lowertown Community Resource Center's (LCRS) project of container gardening for the 2015 growing season. They are also hoping to create another community garden, this time on Ottawa Community Housing property.
To gauge the interest of these efforts, the committee has engaged in door-to-door activities within the community. They will need support. Thus far, there is plentiful encouragement for the community garden.
Container gardening in Lowertown. Photo: Annie Mercier
Catherine Mageau-Walker, the program coordinator for SustainLowertown, reminisced about one particular interaction she had with pre-teens in the area. "One young lady mentioned that it was too bad chocolate didn't grow in the ground. I quickly added that it did, sadly just not in our climate."
As for the container gardening project, it will be a continuation of last year's effort. For the last two years, the project ran out of the Lower Town Community Resource Centre (LCRC) (40 Cobourg Street in Ottawa) and was a raging success. The community distributed the containers and offered eight workshops to help residents learn to garden while also supporting them throughout the 2014 growing season.
"The teaching and joy that happens there is truly beautiful and inspiring to witness," Mageau-Walkwe explains. If all goes well, this could happen again this year.
As it stands now, food insecurity is of much concern for residents in this area. This project is aimed to lessen the burden and increase food security for all who suffer from it. It is also designed to teach and support young community members to grow healthy, affordable and fresh food for them, their family and their neighbours. This will give the children, youth and adults of the community access to fresh produce, as well as access to the knowledge needed to grow their own produce in the future.
This will also help people connect. It is designed to encourage and support community and community building. Lowertown is a very multicultural community that represents a microcosm of Canada, and by introducing container gardening and a new community garden, the hope is that it will bring together people from various backgrounds.
This will also enable residents who don't have access to a growing space to grow their own food. In this case, it doesn't matter if you don't have space on your balcony or backyard because you can grow it in the LCRC containers on their property.
The project is currently in the stage of collecting interested residents. The next step is inviting them to plan and design gardens with raised beds. Any Lowertown residents who are interested in participating in the SustainLowertown project are cordially invited to the bi-monthly Action Committee Meetings.
"It is always so important to ask people what they think, what they want, what they need, how they imagine it, how they wish to participate and contribute to make it happen," Christine Mageau-Walker says, "involving residents in the whole process and trying, while being realistic of course, to factor in all the elements and make it happen."
The meetings and the project are designed to be as inclusive as possible. In this way the community can support itself, with the hopes of no longer being food insecure. Once the community is food secure, they can begin to strengthen community resilience and combat other issues they are faced with.
Last year there were a successful 120 containers that were distributed to the residents. In order to have a successful growing season again they need residents to participate. The only credentials for your participation is that you are a Lowertown resident who wants to grow their own food.
Together, we can make this growing season one to remember!
Michelle McConnell is interested in social justice, peace and environmental issues. You can follow her on Twitter @Mich_McConnell.