Chilliwack’s Bowls of Hope Society has just launched a pilot project that will teach people how to grow vegetables, and show them what to do with those veggies once they’re harvested.
Through the “Garden Box to the Table” program, boxes built by Gonzo Gardeners are going to 20 families around town, along with soil, compost and gardening tools. Recipients are getting seed packets for veggies like lettuce, cucumbers, beets, shallots, carrots, tomatoes and bush beans and herbs like parsley, thyme, lemon balm and cilantro.
Meg Jordan, who runs a health and wellness website focused around gardening and nature, will coach the gardeners, guiding them to a point where they are able to pick fresh veggies from their box. From there it will be Jolanda Reimer’s turn. Better known as the “Stone Soup Lady,” Reimer will teach the families how to incorporate their harvest into delicious crock-pot meals.
Chilliwack Bowls of Hope Society executive director Cindy Waters said her organization was approached by Community Future South Fraser about this project, and they were excited to hop on board, viewing it as a natural extension of the “Hands Up Chilliwack” program they launched last year.
“It’s a meal-kit program where you get a free meal kit to help with your grocery budget, and it contains all the ingredients you need for a recipe that we provide,” Waters explained. “It’s got a little more detailed instruction than you would find in an average recipe, and we provide a demonstration video along with that.”
The Chilliwack Bowls of Hope Society is best known for its “Feed the Children” program that supplies meals for around 800 children in 23 schools around Chilliwack, but through Hands up Chilliwack and now Garden Box to the Table, Waters said they’re putting more focus on education and skill development, and less on simply handing stuff out.
“People know how to open things and heat them in the microwave or on the stove, but not necessarily how to prepare a meal from scratch,” Waters said. “We want to show people that when you cook from scratch and make a healthy meal for a lot less than it would cost going to a fast food restaurant.
“We thought this new program would be a perfect continuum from ‘Hands Up Chilliwack’ to allow people to grow their own veggies and help them with their costs and food security.”
Pilot programs come with measurables and Waters said this one will viewed as a success if there is engagement from the families.
“We’ll follow them to see how successful they are growing the seeds/seedlings they’ll receive, and what we’re looking for is communication,” she said. “Even if they don’t grow as many things as hoped, if they are trying to learn and willing to try new things, to us that’s a success.”
If it does go well, and early returns are very promising, then it may be the stepping off point for even more.
“We have people that want to participate but they have no place for a garden box, so we’re working with Chilliwack Healthier Community to see if we can find land for garden plots,” Waters said. “There are all sorts of ideas out there for what we can do, so this is us dipping our toe into the water to see how we can help these 20 families and then literally grow this project.”