Vancouver Island University has joined in the effort to meet anticipated demand for affordable food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
VIU’s G.R. Paine Horticultural Training Centre has set aside space in its greenhouses this spring to grow more seedlings to be transplanted into fields Nanaimo Foodshare Society uses for vegetable production.
Nanaimo Foodshare grows fruits and vegetables at the City of Nanaimo’s Five Acre Farm in Harewood and the Cline Agri-health Centre near the Millstone River. The society has worked with partners since 1997 to address hunger in the community, build agriculture skills and bring the community together to share resources.
Executive director Jen Cody expects more people will apply to receive fresh produce through the society’s Good Food Box program, which due to COVID-19, recently expanded in response to increased demand.
“The pandemic has spotlighted the importance of food security in our community,” Cody said in a VIU news release.
The society is preparing more land for planting at the Cline centre to increase production. Nanaimo Foodshare will provide the seeds and pots, while VIU will provide the space and labour needed to tend to the vegetable starters.
VIU has a long history of collaboration with the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. Both farms are training locations for participants in VIU’s workplace essential skills training program, which helps students with development and cognitive disabilities who face barriers to employment. The students also help with harvesting the produce in the fall and are involved in selling some of the surplus veggies.