Home gardeners fight food insecurity – one tomato at a time

Backyard vegetable gardens help with household budgets in times of high inflation

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By Meharwaan Manak

An increasing number of Canadians are turning to home gardening to offset the price of fresh produce in the face of spiraling inflation.

More than 5.8 million Canadian households experienced some level of food insecurity in 2021, according to the latest Household Food Insecurity in Canada report, 2021.

A Statistics Canada report, 2022, indicates Canadians feel they cannot keep up with the rising price of groceries.

B.C. Premier David Eby said earlier in March, 2023, the province is investing more than $200 million in food security.

Theresa Couture, an urban gardener, started a home garden in 2020 during lockdown. Since then, she has expanded the project in order to contribute produce to food banks.

“As a child I grew up with … food insecurity as far as where our next meal was coming from,” she said. “I wanted to grow stuff and give it to people who couldn’t get fresh fruits and vegetables.”

According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2023, an average family of four will spend $16,288.41 on food this year — an increase of $1,065.60 over 2022.

“You can literally save hundreds,” Couture said. “If you’re able to freeze and preserve (food), your savings continue over the winter.”

Food prices skyrocket

Couture even extended her garden to include the front yard “to maximize how much” she can give. She estimates she donates about three quarters of her fresh grown produce to local food banks.

Fresh produce donations to food banks are “very weather dependant,” according to Amanda Smith, coordinator of agriculture initiatives for the non-profit Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS).

In 2020, LEPS established a student-run “Learning Farm” in collaboration with the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation.

Although there was slow pollination caused by the prolonged rains last year, LEPS “donated a lot of vegetables” produced by the Learning Farm, said Smith.

Home gardeners helping their community

Angela Ng, a Vancouver gardener, expanded her home garden during COVID-19 but continued as inflation climbed.

Initially she found gardening quite expensive but said “over time you start to learn the tricks of the trade and start saving money.”

“In the summertime when the food is abundant [from the garden], you save a lot more not running to the store to get vegetables and greens,” she said but added that food security is more than just feeding your family. “It’s helping your community as well.”

Melany Yeap, another experienced Vancouver gardener, has been actively gardening since 2015 as a cheaper and more reliable way to eat. She described her garden as “all encompassing.”

“I see this as a part of my extended pantry,” she said.

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