My FED Farm, created by Food Eco District (FED), is aiming to help people affected by the COVID-19 grow food in their own back yard. In collaboration with Sooke Region Food CHI, Transition Sooke and the Sooke Garden Club, the program is extending its reach to Sooke. (Black Press file photo)

Food security initiative encourages Sooke residents to grow food at home

My FED Farm program offers free garden kits to those affected by COVID-19

A Greater Victoria food security initiative is extending its reach to Sooke.

The program, called My FED Farm, created by Food Eco District, is aiming to help people affected by COVID-19 grow food in their own backyard.

Sooke resident Stephen Hindrichs, in collaboration with Sooke Region Food CHI, Transition Sooke and the Sooke Garden Club, is helping get things started in Sooke.

Hindrichs been focusing on implementing food security strategies in Sooke for a couple of months, and more recently, caught word of what FED was doing in Victoria.

ALSO READ: Take a ride through Victoria’s growing urban agriculture movement

“When I found out about FED I thought, ‘Wow, this is exactly what we want to do here and they already have the program up and running.’ So I reached out and talked with them about how we could work together,” said Hindrichs.

“A lot of people are struggling right now, getting their food from the food bank or having a hard time affording healthy food, so this will help them.”

When Greater Victoria residents impacted by COVID-19 sign up to the program, they receive a “garden package” for free. The packages include between two and five round planters, soil, three starter plants, seeds, delivery of the materials, an initial consult, as well as access to the program’s web series and #MyFEDFarm chat room.

Hindrichs said things in Sooke will look a little different, because they plan to source most of the supplies, such as seeds and soil, from local donors. He added that because many people in Sooke have quite a bit of land, they also plan on expanding their package to include four-by-four-foot raised beds when appropriate.

“This is something fun people can do at home with their kids,” said Hindrichs. “And it can help people who are interested in growing food at home but are unsure of where or how to start, get started. It gives them a little bit of extra confidence.”

Amid the pandemic, many people may be feeling isolated, stressed out and worried, so gardening can help occupy their minds.

“It’s not just about putting food in our bellies,” Hindrichs said. “I think a lot of people are struggling emotionally with what’s going on and gardening can be incredibly good therapy.”

Even without the pandemic going on, Hindrichs said growing food locally is crucial for a strong community.

“I think we are starting to gain awareness that our system is quite fragile. All it takes is a disruption, whether it be a pandemic or an earthquake or an economic collapse, and suddenly, ‘Where is the food?’” said Hindrichs, noting that becoming more self sufficient allows him to not be as dependent on the current system.

“Local food production creates a resilient community. Food is so important because ultimately, we have to eat.”

ALSO READ: Grocers reassure customers about food supply as demand soars during coronavirus

FED said on its website that its goal with the initiative is to provide 500 homes with food gardens.

“Being the start of the growing season, we look to support families and laid off workers by providing home-based start up food gardens using simple and affordable supplies,” states the FED states website. “While the supply chain of food to the island has not been impacted by COVID-19, the mass layoffs present a tougher challenge in the months ahead.”

FED is based out of downtown Victoria and hopes to some day create a district as recognizable as Chinatown, but with a focus on urban green spaces. It hopes to increase food awareness and security, community engagement, support local businesses, and increase climate action on Vancouver Island.

“We build great spaces to be used as educational hubs for food security and sustainability,” according to FED. “We are highly collaborative and believe we can accomplish more together than alone.”

Anyone wishing to receive a grow kit, to volunteer or to donate, can sign up on the Food Eco District website at www.get-fed.ca.

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