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Community garden support grows as food security withers

By Katie Coleman [1]

BELLEVILLE – Picton councillor Lenny Epstein wants to bring a community garden to Prince Edward County.

Epstein says the idea was inspired by groups such as Hidden Harvest [2] in Ottawa and Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest [3] initiative.

“This is not a council initiative but rather the very beginnings of a citizen initiative which may reach out to the municipality at some point,” Epstein said in an email.

This past May, the United Way of Quinte and the Community Development Council of Quinte [4] took on a similar project on Roblin Road.

Ruth Ingersoll, the director of Community Development Council of Quinte, is on board with Epstein’s idea.

“We have so much land here in Hastings and Prince Edward County it seems like should be used to be growing some food if we’re food insecure. And try to get it to people who need it.”

In Hastings and Prince Edward counties, one in nine households experienced food insecurity according to the Canadian Community Health Survey [5]. Dieticians of Canada [6] defines food insecurity as when people do not have physical or economic access to safe and nutritious food. Hastings and Prince Edward have the second highest rate of food insecurity in the province.

“People are paying way too much for housing compared to what they’re making,” said Ingersoll, who says that’s a contributing factor in food insecurity.

She says that there are three ways to increase food security. First is to continue with the emergency food programs and food banks. Second is to help people become more self-sustainable by giving them access to affordable and healthy food options [7]. And third is to advocate for the public to the provincial and federal government to raise minimum wage and social assistance.

The idea of a community gardening program is still in the discussion phase, said Epstein.

 “I can’t really say what will come of the meeting. Some have suggested that we begin by mapping current fruit and nut trees in our community that are currently not being maintained or harvested, from roadside apple trees to trees on private property where the owner would benefit from some harvesting help. In the long run, perhaps a public community space or spaces could be planted with fruit-bearing trees,” says Epstein.
The first meeting to explore the possibility of a community meeting is 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening at the Picton Public Library.