On the heels of World Food Day, Niagara College (NC) and United Way Niagara are excited to announce an expanded partnership that aims to increase food security in Niagara. The United Way Niagara Garden Hub, situated at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is an expansive community garden that is supporting food programs locally and providing educational opportunities for residents.
“United Way had been looking for a space to grow food and improve affordable, healthy food access for marginalized people and families,” said Frances Hallworth, CEO United Way Niagara. “We are thrilled to partner with Niagara College on this monumental initiative that will help those in our community dealing with food insecurity and provide a communal hub for locals to gather, learn and grow together.”
The United Way Niagara Garden Hub, which first took root at the college this summer, consists of 39 garden beds, a greenhouse, tool shed, produce washing station and gazebo. The inaugural growing season produced over 750 lbs. of herbs and vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, beans, kale, carrots, squash, cucumbers and herbs. The produce was distributed through 14 different locations including: Bethlehem Housing locations, Westwood Co-op, Westview Centre4Women, Feeding Fort Erie, Links for Greener Learning and a number of Niagara Regional Housing communities and was used to supply pop-up markets and food programs.
At Westview Centre4Women, women attended a workshop where they learned how to make fresh salsa from a large harvest of tomatoes and peppers. “It was a hugely popular workshop,” said Grazia Sheppard, program coordinator, “the women were so proud to be able to say ‘I made this’ and they got to take it all home to share with their families.”
Niagara College has been a long-time supporter of the United Way, launching its first workplace campaign in 1991. Becoming a host site for a United Way community garden was a welcome opportunity for the College to further expand its partnership with the charitable organization in support of the Niagara community.
“Niagara College is proud to be a host site for the United Way Niagara Garden Hub that will help nourish local residents in our community,” said NC President Sean Kennedy, who is also the 2022 United Way Niagara Campaign Chair. “Food security is of paramount importance, and hosting a garden that advances United Way Niagara’s ability to serve those in need is one way that our college can further support our community in Niagara.”
“It was wonderful to watch the community garden take shape this year,” said Dr. Marc Nantel, NC Vice President, Research and External Relations. “We look forward to hosting many more growing seasons for this essential initiative, and to furthering the important work of our partners at United Way Niagara.”
In addition to the incredible partnership with Niagara College, United Way is thankful for the volunteer groups who played a large role in building the structures and maintaining the gardens. Algoma Central Corporation and MNP employees volunteered on a few occasions to build the structures as well as a handful of individual volunteers who diligently weeded and watered all summer.
As inflation continues to affect prices in our grocery stores, food insecurity has become even more prevalent in Niagara. Families experiencing poverty already struggle to make ends meet, and when faced with paying for food or paying for rent, it can be an impossible decision. This is where community gardens can become an asset. Food grown in the garden will go to support local food programs and affordable fresh food markets.
United Way, through their Niagara Community Garden Network program, will continue to coordinate volunteers from the community to help manage the planting, upkeep and harvesting of this garden for the 2023 growing season and beyond. Together with local partners like Niagara College, we can combat food security and do better. For more information, visit our website at unitedwayniagara.org.
About Niagara College: Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visitniagaracollege.ca.
About United Way: United Way works to tackle some of the biggest social issues in Niagara; investing in solutions to poverty, food security, mental illness, homelessness, domestic violence and social isolation.
Garden Hub sign: L-R: Niagara College President Sean Kennedy, United Way Niagara CEO Frances Hallworth and Niagara College Vice President, Research and External Relations Dr. Marc Nantel celebrate the inaugural growing season for the United Way Niagara Garden Hub, a community garden located at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Garden Hub harvest: United Way Niagara CEO Frances Hallworth, Niagara College President Sean Kennedy, and Niagara College Vice President, Research and External Relations Dr. Marc Nantel explore the final crops grown at the United Way Niagara Garden Hub at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.