Mike McGurk, co-director of the Vankleek Hill Food Bank (left) with Ines and Eric Batterton from My Nordic Garden, who installed new raised garden beds at the Grand Barn Community Gardens for the food bank's garden project. Submitted photo

Vankleek Hill Food Bank Garden program expands access with Community Innovation grant

The Vankleek Hill Food Bank’s Garden program has received a boost through a grant from Volunteers Prescott-Russell, which will allow the organization to make its program accessible to more users.

The food bank’s garden project began this past spring at the Grand Barn Community Gardens, with the aim of teaching the value of growing their own food to the organization’s clients. A grant of $12,000 from Volunteers Prescott-Russell’s Community Innovation Grants Program has allowed the food bank to extend its program into the fall of 2021.

The grant will also provide for more gardening beds for clients, larger beds for those who were part of the pilot project and raised beds for those with mobility issues. The project also includes the creation of a garden-tool lending library and the presence of guest speakers in order to provide clients with easy access to the tools and knowledge they need to have a plentiful harvest and lessen food insecurity in the community.

While this summer’s pilot project proved very successful, volunteers at the Vankleek Hill Food Bank were able to identify several areas of need that once fulfilled, will allow the project to grow in the future.

“Through the pilot project we learned that many of our clients didn’t have the support they needed to succeed in growing their own food,” said Jane Fantie, who is co-director of the food bank along with her husband Mike McGurk.

Fantie said many of their inexperienced gardening clients did not own the correct tools for the tasks required to maintain the beds. As well gardening at ground level was difficult for many, particularly senior clients.

“Some of them have issues with having to get down on their hands and knees and they were just not physically capable of doing that,” Fantie noted.

The grant will provide for raised garden beds to make them more accessible for clients with mobility issues, as well as a tool-lending library, which will resolve both of the major issues for food bank clients. The raised beds have already been built and installed at the Grand Barn Community Gardens site. Local builder My Nordic Garden was contracted to build and install the three raised garden beds, and the company donated a fourth bed towards the project.

“They installed four beautiful cedar raised beds for us,” said Fantie, who noted it was important to have the project supplied by a local business.

The food bank is now in the process of purchasing the gardening implements required for the tool-lending library from Home Hardware in Vankleek Hill.

“We’re making lists now of tomato cages and knee pads and trowels – all the things our clients said would help them succeed in growing their own vegetables,” Fantie explained. “For next spring we will be ready to rock and roll with a new and improved Food Bank Garden for our clients to grow their own food.

Fantie said the success of the food bank’s garden program would not have been possible without the support of both Foodland Vankleek Hill, which donated hundreds of packets of seeds this year to the project. The Champlain Library also provided support through its Seed Library Program in partnership with the Vankleek Hill and District Horticultural Society.

More information on the Vankleek Hill Food Bank Garden can be obtained via email at [email protected] , through the group’s Facebook page, or by calling 613-678-8119. Donations can also me made to the food bank through any of the above contacts.


Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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