Garden feeds minds, the hungry

High school garden yields bounty for food bank

TAMARA SHEPHARD – Oct 06, 2010

The garden at Lakeshore Collegiate is teaching lessons not only in biodiversity, but also in math, English and civics.

Some 10 to 15 Lakeshore Collegiate Institute (LCI) students are taking time after school to tend to an astounding 10 varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, Swiss chard, cucuzza (Italian squash), as well as a small patch of pumpkins.

Harvested pumpkins are on display in the Kipling Avenue school office.

LCI’s harvest is expected to hit 1,500 pounds later this month. Weekly, it is delivered to nearby Daily Bread Food Bank.

“There are a lot of curriculum connections,” Bianca Radix, LCI science teacher who heads the program said of the garden. “The art teacher took her class out to do sketches. I taught a lesson on biodiversity. The science class was involved in the planting. The woodshop may build us beds, composters, trellises in the future. We make connections to math, English and civics. It’s a learning tool in the school.”

Beyond lessons learned, it’s also fun.

“The kids love it,” Radix said, noting many gain community volunteer hours doing it. “Kids really enjoy the whole process – growing the plants from seed, watching them grow. They’re amazed they’re growing their own food.”

Students with balconies rather than backyards learn all it takes is “sunlight, soil and water” to grow tomatoes at home.

PACT established the program. The Participation, Acknowledgement, Commitment, Transformation Urban Peace Program develops and delivers youth crime prevention programs.

PACT provided two LCI students an honorarium to prepare the garden this past summer.

Initially, the charity worked with the courts offering community service programs for youth who had run-ins with the law. PACT has since expanded the program to help neighbourhood youth find a passion.

“The best prevention is getting youth early to ignite a passion that leads to higher education or employment opportunities,” David Lockett, PACT co-founder and volunteer president said in a statement. “Youth need to be channeled into skills-based community programs and given a chance to find that stepping-stone path to their futures.”

The urban garden is part of PACT’s Grow to Learn program.

It took root last year at West Humber Collegiate in north Etobicoke, as well as at Sir Sandford Fleming Academy in Toronto’s Lawrence Heights neighbourhood.

This past spring, PACT expanded the garden program to include LCI and Elmbank Junior Middle School in Etobicoke, as well as Emery Collegiate in North York.