For Luis Reyes, growing fresh produce to feed the hungry is a “dream come true”.
Reyes, an agronomist from Chile, is the head gardener for the London Food Bank’s greenhouse operation, which opened last year.
The 30-by-17-foot greenhouse, located behind the Food Bank, has produced tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, carrots, okra, beets, lettuce, kale and more in 1,400 one-gallon grow boxes. Food is shipped to customers the same day it is harvested to ensure they receive the best nutrition possible.
“I think it’s the best thing in the world to have this opportunity to work in a situation like this,” Reyes said.
The 30-foot by 17-foot greenhouse produces fruit and vegetables in 1,400 one-gallon grow boxes. (Angela McInnes/CBC)
The London Food Bank’s main greenhouse runs all year round, allowing growth in any weather.
The project was first announced less than two years ago during the CBC show Sound of the Seasons. Glen Pearson, who serves as executive director of the London Food Bank, said the announcement had sparked a broader interest from Londoners to grow and donate even more fresh food to those in need.
One of the greenhouse’s “grow walls” where a number of leafy greens wait to be harvested. (Angela McInnes/CBC)
While the City of London requires permits for large greenhouses, it is possible to have smaller 12ft x 20ft and 12ft x 40ft greenhouses.
With the help of Business Cares Food Drive, 15 of these smaller greenhouses were built this summer for other community programs. Three greenhouses at St Aidan’s Anglican Church were specially grown for the London Food Bank.
“We had our biggest month in our entire 35-year history in November,” Pearson said. “So we have probably 9,000 people coming in every month and they all want really fresh fruit. And so it’s important not only for the donors, but also for the customers themselves that they can have it.”
These strawberries are enjoyed by one of the panel’s customers as soon as they are ripe. (Angela McInnes/CBC)
The London Food Bank is now preparing for even more customers over the next 12 months. Canada’s Food Price Report predicts that family grocery bills will increase between five and seven percent — or an additional $966 a year.
Supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and weather events such as the heat dome are major contributors to the expected price increases.
Fresh Grocery Coordinator Mike Bloxam pointed out that the elimination of government aid programs like CERB will also lead to greater reliance on the service.
The greenhouse is behind the London Food Bank. (Angela McInnes/CBC)
The Food Bank will continue to rely on numerous initiatives, including one that stops food from grocery stores going to landfill. There are also plans to expand the municipal greenhouse network.
You can donate to the London Food Bank by making a financial contribution on their website or by making food donations. Click here for a list of the most commonly needed items.
Sounds of the Season is our annual fundraiser in support of the London Food Bank. It’s also an opportunity to take a closer look at why people are in need in our city and what steps are being taken to help them.
Last year, Sounds of the Season raised over $13,000 in donations and nearly £500 in food. Please help us to top that this year!
You can access Feed Ontario’s 2021 Hunger Report Here.