On the heels of World Food Day 2022, Niagara College and United Way Niagara announced 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.”
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.”
The United Way Niagara Garden Hub, which first took root at the College this past 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.
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.”
As inflation continues to affect prices in local 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.
The United Way Niagara Garden Hub was built and maintained this year with support from United Way volunteer groups including Algoma Central Corporation and MNP employees, as well as individual volunteers.
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.
“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.”
For more information, visit unitedwayniagara.org.