Community garden fills need at food bank

Saanich Community Food Bank Garden produces about 1,500 pounds of vegetables for the Mustard Seed Food Bank every year

Alison Allison Gratz picks some cherry tomatoes at the Saanich Community Food Bank Garden. The garden produces about 1

Alison Allison Gratz picks some cherry tomatoes at the Saanich Community Food Bank Garden. The garden produces about 1

A dedicated group of Saanich gardeners is digging deep to help others in need.

A small band of volunteers spend their Saturdays from April through September at the Saanich Community Church where they tend the soil and harvest the bounty at the Saanich Community Food Bank Garden.

“The purpose is to produce food for the food bank,” said co-ordinator Allison Gratz, who was there when the idea first germinated nine years ago.

“It was started off because we wanted to be good stewards of the land. The land [on the church property] just wasn’t being used at all. We thought we could start a garden there.”

The bounty of vegetables grown is then turned over to Victoria’s Mustard Seed Food Bank.

“They just can’t get enough good-quality fresh produce,” said Gratz. “They get some donations of food, but often it is seconds, and that’s understandable. But ours are some of the only ones that are grown expressly for them.”

She said the garden can produce about 1,500 pounds of vegetables in a year, estimating the value at about $6,000. During the peak, she said they harvested about 85 pounds of cherry tomatoes and 150 pounds of beans.

“And that was just in one week. That was a lot of picking.”

Gratz doesn’t have a figure for how many meals all the vegetables picked throughout the year translates to.

“I haven’t calculated, probably thousands. I don’t know, how many pounds of beans can someone eat at a meal?”

She said there’s a core group of a half dozen or so volunteers, with another 40 or 50 people making their way out to the garden once or twice a year.

She said over the years the volunteers have improved their gardening skills, getting better at producing more food. There are a few staples that can regularly be found in the 1,600 square feet of garden space at the church.

“We’ve gotten really good at growing beans and cherry tomatoes, and had some success with potatoes, squash and zucchinis. Then we have root vegetables like beets and parsnips and carrots,” said Gratz, adding they also grow some herbs, which can be fairly expensive, along with grapes and apples along the edges of the garden.

While the Mustard Seed is able to get top-quality produce out of the arrangement, Gratz said it also brings a benefit to the volunteers.

“I love it, and it’s more fun to pull weeds and everything with other people,” she said.

“I’ve always grown up having garden-fresh produce, it’s just something that’s always been a part of my life. If I’m able to help other people who are not able to have access to that kind of really tasty food, I’m really happy to do that.”

She said it’s also made her a better gardener, comparing the sharing of information to something “like a hive mind.”

“There’s one person who’s really great at tomatoes and someone else is this amazing orchardist and has been able to help us out with the fruit thing. Someone else is really good at irrigation. We’ve just been blessed to have all these really good people around. We’re just learning all the time.”

The community garden is always looking for more hands to help out with the work. Anyone interested in volunteering can email You can also visit their Facebook page at FoodBankGarden.



Just Posted

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read