Feasting for Change to connect kids and food bank

The new program will teach Pemberton’s youth about helping others

Stewardship Pemberton is launching a new program called Feasting for Change to teach local kids about gardening and giving back to the community.

The non-profit organization, which connects people and nature, recently received funding from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for the initiative, which will begin in the spring. The after-school program will accept around 10 kids from

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Grades 1 to 5 to help grow organic vegetables on a large plot at the Pemberton Creek Community Garden. The harvest will be taken to the Pemberton Food Bank to help those in need.

“Lately — maybe it’s because of all these amazing local food movements — we’ve been really inspired to work more closely with connecting kids and different members of our community with food, which ties into our goal for sustainability,” said Dawn Johnson, project coordinator with the organization.

In the past, volunteers have maintained a plot in the community garden for the food bank, but last year there weren’t enough people to keep it running. “We started thinking about how we might be able to make that happen for them,” Johnson said.

The group had a plot next to the food bank’s with which they taught kids about plants and lifecycles, among other lessons, and decided to amalgamate the two plots to create a 60 ft by 6 ft garden. “We think the idea is fabulous for  several reasons,” Lynne Armstrong, food bank coordinator, said in an email. “First the food bank users get access to locally grown,  sustainable produce, which is both healthy for them and great for the environment. It also educates young people about where food comes from and raises their awareness about the fact that there are individuals and families in need in our local community...  This project is a fantastic way of addressing a number of these issues and we can’t wait to see what they produce.”

The group will begin planting in greenhouses in early spring with the goal of harvesting in mid-October. With the food bank open only two days of the month, there could be an opportunity to get the fresh vegetables to those who need them on a more frequent basis. “Besides teaching kids about the environment and sustainability and organic gardening, what really gets me excited about this program is that these kids are going to be giving back directly to their community,” Johnson said. “I have small children and it’s not a distant concept. They see kids in their class every day using the food bank, potentially — or for example, the school’s lunch program for kids who don’t come to school with lunches. I think it’s a real and tangible thing for them to experience.”

Eventually, Johnson would also like to develop a system to connect gardeners in the community who have extra food with those who could use it. “I’m a home vegetable gardener and the amount of produce that you can grow and harvest on a small plot in Pemberton is absolutely outstanding,” she said. “Through programming maybe families we already work with we can encourage them to step up to the plate.”

But for now, the group’s focus is getting the program up and running. Registration for kids will begin in early March (they hope to secure more funding to help keep costs down). They also hope to recruit youth mentors and adult volunteers.

Additional funding is also welcome, Johnson said.

“It fills a need in our community for affordable after-school care for kids for working parents,” she said. “I hope it will inspire kids and instill (a sense of) social responsibility to take care of others in their community.”

For more information visit stewardshippemberton.com.

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