Bissell Centre Community Food Initiative

The Cause

Food security has been identified as a global challenge in countless studies and reports, and Edmonton is no different. There are thousands of people in the Edmonton area who are unable to afford or access healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. These are prevalent obstacles in the Boyle/McCauley neighbourhood where Bissell Centre is located, with affordability being the most significant barrier, but Bissell Centre has an innovative idea to address this.

Bissell Centre plans to implement a Community Food Initiative (CFI), where fruits, herbs, and vegetables will be cultivated onsite in our Drop-In Centre. The CFI will use indoor tower gardens based on aeroponic technology to have a food system that spans from seed to fork. This initiative will invite input from participants at every stage and aims to educate and inspire people towards healthy eating. Tower gardens using aeroponic technology grow food without any soil, providing water and nutrients to the plants using atomized water. The tower gardens will enable us to provide food and educational opportunities to our participants year-round, and participants will play a part in every stage of growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs, from planting to harvesting to eating.

This project will improve community cohesion and development amongst our participants, create opportunities to develop new skills, and educate our participants on healthy eating. The food that is grown onsite will be used to create healthy meals to serve in the Drop-In and to provide nutritious food to our Collective Kitchen participants.

Who Will it Benefit?

Our Drop-In Centre clients consist of men and women over the age of 18 who are living in poverty
and/or experiencing homelessness and rely on Bissell Centre’s Drop-In to meet their daily needs and
connect to a variety of support services. Those who are experiencing homelessness are often socially
isolated and face a multitude of physical and mental barriers that keep them impoverished. Many of our
participants are affected by one of, or a combination of, mental health issues, addiction, physical
disability, and traumatic life-altering events such as: divorce, family deaths, serious illnesses, and
physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Approximately 50% of our participants are of Indigenous heritage,
many of whom still suffer from the intergenerational trauma of the residential school system,
impoverished reserve life, and failed assimilation policies. We see approximately 400 people access
services in our Drop-In Centre daily, and serve upwards of 100 lunches and 100 snacks every day.
Establishing a tower garden in this space will impact our current thinking and costs around food, Drop-In engagement, and create a more pleasant space.