Grow Calgary is a community-based initiative designed to grow and provide fresh, local produce to local low-income individuals and families to supplement Calgary Interfaith Food Banks’ food hamper program. The urban farm is located on an 8-acre parcel of leased land west of Canada Olympic Park and at full build-out will be Canada’s largest urban agriculture project and one of the leading food access programs in North America. With the help of its volunteer gardeners, Grow Calgary aims to grow and donate unprecedented amounts of produce for Calgarians who would not otherwise have access.
The foundation of Grow Calgary is a belief in the transformative power of food and every individual’s right to make smart food choices. Grow Calgary’s project model is designed to achieve the goals of food access and the corollary benefits to health through a combination of urban agricultural food production, educational programming and volunteer involvement. This approach creates opportunities for individuals and communities to play a pivotal role in ensuring all Calgarians have access to fresh food.
Grow Calgary recognizes that in addition to providing access to fresh food, equal attention must also be paid to educating people on the benefits of growing and cooking with fresh food and the skills they need to do so. To support this part of its mandate, Grow Calgary has named Justin Leboe its Chef Ambassador. Chef Leboe is one of Canada’s most celebrated chefs and will help lead Grow Calgary’s efforts to teach children, parents and families how to make better food choices – regardless of budget. This will be done through a combination of education, outreach and community programming. Through this multi-faceted approach, Grow Calgary will achieve its goals of ensuring food access, individual and family health, and the strengthening of community volunteerism.
Who Will it Benefit?
The benefits of the Grow Calgary project are tied to its production and provision of fresh, local produce, and its community-outreach program. There are two main groups who benefit from the Grow Calgary project; direct clients of the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank who receive the food and the individuals served by the organization’s volunteer and community outreach programs.
Direct Clients of the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank
At this time, the most proximate beneficiaries of the Grow Calgary project are those individuals and families who rely on the services of the Calgary Interfaith Foodbank. Through this unique partnership, local food hampers will now include a supply of fresh food from Grow Calgary’s gardens during harvest season. Last year, the Calgary Interfaith foodbank distributed Emergency Food Hampers to over 136,000 Calgarians and shared 1.8 million kilograms amongst 110 Calgary based non-profit agencies. Grow Calgary produce will support these efforts and help to ensure that the food distributed to low-income families and non-profit agencies includes nutritious local produce.
Through its outreach program and the work of its Chef Ambassador, the Grow Calgary project will also target issues underlying barriers to food access including a lack of knowledge about nutrition and food preparation skills, poor mealtime habits and poor food preparation habits. The community outreach component of the Grow Calgary project will seek to provide opportunities for hands-on training and cooking demonstration, thus helping to ensure those individuals who receive Grow Calgary produce are equipped with the tools and skills to transform fresh food into repeatable family or individual meals. A school program will also be developed to teach kids where food comes from and how it is grown.