A project to increase community food security has helped people provide for themselves and their families while also seeing at least one person find a permanent job.
With a focus on low income familes and seniors, Northwest Community Service, a new business started by David Hansen late last year, installed raised garden beds in backyards and helped increase food growing knowledge in the community with the help of Grow Local, an initiative financed by the provincial government.
“We built 45 boxes in 39 locations in the community,” said Hansen to city council Sept. 11.
Hansen is also subcontracted out of Kermode Friendship Society to work with the Homelessness Partnership Strategy, where he found three people to build the boxes for the project. A fourth person was a Northwest Community Service volunteer.
Three people were looking for the opportunity to get connected to the labour market and this project accomplished that with great success, Hansen said. He added one homeless person, who had been unemployed for five years, connected with the program daily for four months and finished strong.
That person went to work in a permanent full-time position with a local business in a first-year carpentry apprenticeship.
The work allowed him to secure transportation, a driver’s licence and car insurance, said Hansen.
“We thought some places were a good location and would have a bigger impact on more people—like daycares, Headstart, some apartment complexes—so we started with these and put the word out and people came to us and requested boxes from there,” said Hansen.
“We had 15 kids out at Headstart at Kermode playing in the dirt and thinning out the carrots.”
Two boxes were also built in Gitaus.
“It was a positive opportunity for those communities,” said Hansen. “They took a lot of pride in the boxes in their homes. When we saw them in the community, they really were excited and super thankful to have a box.”
There was a spectrum of response to the boxes: some people were heavily invested and weeded and watered their boxes constantly, and those who didn’t give theirs as much attention were encouraged along, said Hansen.
Hansen added that the project also partnered with Kalum Community School Society and built it a box for carrots.
In the spring, the project has some budget left to go back and re-seed the boxes built last year.
There’s talk about selling boxes to more affluent families with a percentage of the profit going to marginalized people to build their own garden boxes.
Councillor Lynne Christiansen suggested that if people grew enough to sell the farmers market had a high priority of accepting people growing their own to encourage them to make some income.
Councillor Stacey Tyers commented that a box could be built to be the seed growing and harvesting garden, basically a seed bank.
A seed bank in Lillooet will send out seeds to start one locally, she added.