Cool, wet spring felt at N2N food bank:Fresh produce donations down 50 percent

The cool, wet spring has hit the shelves of the food bank at Neighbour to Neighbour Centre.

Charlotte Redekop-Young, manager of emergency food services at the Athens Street centre, said donations from their 17 community garden partners are down noticeably.

“It’s about half of where we were last year,” said Redekop-Young.

As of the beginning of July, the centre had received about 227 kilograms (500 pounds) of fresh produce, mostly leafy greens, compared to about 454 kilograms (1,000 pounds) a year ago and much of that produce has come from the EMS community garden at Limeridge Road East near Upper Ottawa.

The community gardens are run by volunteers mostly with employee groups, churches and service clubs.

Redekop-Young said they are still waiting for their first tomatoes and peppers of the season.

The late start to the growing season means less choice for the 1,200 or so Mountain households that use the food bank each month.

In the past, when vegetables were plentiful, food bank users were permitted to take as much as they could carry.

Now, Redekop-Young noted each household is permitted two bags of greens per month and the greens are usually snapped up as soon as they are put on the shelves.

She’s glad to see the return of sunny and warm conditions and hopes they will extend into the fall so the community gardens can try to match the 12,700 kilograms (28,000 pounds) of produce that was harvested for the food bank last year.

Redekop-Young said they are also happy to accept any produce from someone’s backyard garden or fruit from their trees.

Donations can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays Wednesdays and Fridays and 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

Over at the Hamilton Community Food Centre on Limeridge Road West, community gardens coordinator LeeAnne MacGregor noted the cool, wet spring has been both good and bad.

“The wet spring has been absolutely fantastic for crops that enjoy the cold,” she said. “We’ve had a really great spinach harvest, mizuna (a salad green), mustard, arugula, the lettuces.”

While leafy greens have been bountiful, the spring conditions slowed the growing of warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

The plots at the food centre’s 800-square-foot garden at nearby Captain Cornelius Park feature fresh soil and are above ground, which is for good drainage.

MacGregor noted the cool, wet spring also resulted in fewer people taking part in the food centre’s garden club where veteran and newbie gardeners share their time and skills three times a week and share in the harvest.

Anyone interested in getting involved in the club can contact MacGregor via lmacgregor@n2ncentre.com.

The food centre which runs a variety of free community food programs, is part of Neighbour to Neighbour Centre.

Happy round-up

Neighbour to Neighbour Centre’s annual great rice round-up was a success.

The community donated 2,974 kilograms (6,556 pounds) of rice for the food bank between April 29 and June 14.

That’s up 38 percent from last year.