Incredible Edible Oak Lake: Food for the Future
Our vision for Canada is to have complete food security for all citizens. We believe that access to healthy and nutritious food is a right that all Canadians deserve to enjoy and we are working hard at the local level to make this happen.
Oak Lake is a small, rural community in the southwest corner of Manitoba with limited access to fresh, affordable food. Grocery shopping is difficult for many families as the high cost of fruit and vegetables at our local store is a barrier to many families. To acquire more affordable food, families are required to drive thirty minutes to the next town, which is simply not accessible to many due to rising fuel costs.
Our project aims to create change on two different levels. Firstly, students at our school will learn the lost art of gardening. In today’s society, many families have strayed from traditional gardening methods as a way to feed their families. With recent “Eat Local” campaigns, we feel that now is the perfect time to get our youth interested in becoming self sufficient food producers. It is our hope that students will take their knowledge home and encourage their parents to take an active role in growing gardens together. The second aspect of our project is to grown community gardens for all Oak Lake citizens to access. These gardens will be planted and maintained by our students with the goal of providing fresh, local and nutritious food, free of charge to any citizens that are in need.
Food security is an important issue in our community as rising prices discourage healthy eating. Research has shown that when students are provided with nutritious meals, they do better socially and academically. Oak Lake Community School services a high percentage of families with a low socio-economic status; thus, any way that we can help these families be successful is a worthwhile project.
Providing access to free vegetables will help alleviate the financial strain that many of these families face and could have mental health benefits as the stress of providing healthy food will be decreased.
Through our project, we will also see increased family bonding as students teach their parents how to grow their own food. Relationships between community members and local youth will be strengthened as students work to create a more sustainable community.
Family and community bonds are not the only connections that will be made through this project however, a strong connection to our environment will also begin to form as students realize that in order to grow healthy food, they also need to take care of the earth it grows on.
This project will have many components to keep our students actively engaged as well as to allow them to take ownership of the venture. Our students will start off by researching edible plants that we are able to grow in our gardening zone and create garden plans to help visualize the end results of their hard work. They will learn how and where to plant the seeds and specific requirements that will ensure their successful growth. They will also take time to learn when their vegetables are ready to harvest and how to prepare them.
All of this information will be published in brochures that will be sent home to Oak Lake Community School families and displayed at our local RM office.
Our community garden project will be publicized on the OLCS wind powered LED sign as another way to reach the public and keep with our environmental sustainability goals.
Weatherproof signage will be created to explain the project and let visitors to the garden know when the plants will be ready to eat. These signs will be posted at the site of our project to encourage community members to feel welcome to enjoy the fresh vegetables.
Students will also write an article for our local newspaper to reach a wider audience and help educate more people on their food security efforts.
Our youth will take an active, hands on role with our project as they plant all of the seeds to help feed our community!
Each classroom in our school has been provided with a compost pail for their lunch waste, which will be useful in creating our organic gardens.
Students will maintain the gardens throughout the summer months and keep data on the estimated amount of vegetables harvested by our community.
We have also partnered with our local 4-H club to plant a pollinator garden near our vegetables to help increase yields. Our students will learn about the crucial role that pollinators play in food production and will be encouraged to take steps to protect them.
By encouraging students to take leadership roles with our project, we are not only increasing food security, but we are also creating future world leaders that are well educated on environmental issues and are willing to take a stand to ensure a sustainable future.
Reflection & Celebration
We are currently working hard to ensure the success of our project. Manitoba has had a late spring this year which has not allowed us to plant many vegetables yet. Students have started seeds to grow under our grow lights, which is a sign of progress! As temperatures increase, we will be able to get our gardens up and running.
Students are currently working on their community education pieces and are eager to share their learning with families and community members.
To ensure the ongoing sustainability of this project, we will partner with our local garden club and maintain our partnership with our 4-H club. We are also going to approach local business owners to sponsor community planters so we can increase the amount of vegetables available to harvest.
Through our Incredible Edible Oak Lake project, the seed will be planted for community members to see the importance of food security and encourage them to help with the garden maintenance, turning our small, school project into a community wide venture.