Food production is an essential service for all, including many low-income people and people from equity-seeking groups. Community gardens must continue to grow produce to supplement household food security, in particular for those who struggle to access food, including fresh food.
The recommendation is that community gardens must follow these minimum standards to begin the garden season while following public health guidelines for containing the spread of COVID-19.
Following these guidelines will be additional work for garden coordinators and committees at a busy time of year.
If a garden does not have the capacity to follow the guidelines for whatever reasons, it must not open until emergency measures have been lifted or until your garden can set up these safety protocols. We all need to keep safety a #1 concern.
A health questionnaire can be found at https://bcfoodsecuritygateway.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/04/Health-Questionaire-Covid-19-AgSafe.pdf. This can be used as a guideline to update your procedures. It is absolutely essential to follow physical distancing and sanitation practices. Recommended solutions can be customized to work within each garden to meet the requirements of physical distancing and sanitation.
Community gardens have a strong role to play in educating people about safe practices and gaining compliance with public health COVID-19 measures.
Andrew Sweetman from Compass Community Gardens spoke with us about the garden at the health centre. Their focus is on providing food security for the residents of the North End. Last fall they worked with a group of mature adults and planted seeds to shelter in the greenhouse. This spring when the plants started producing, the city has put in restrictions in place for the virus. The group could not come in to harvest but Compass staff did and gave the food to Welcome Inn to distribute to the seniors they serve. This is a perfect example of how the North End community works together.
This year will look a little different at the gardens. Programming won’t be allowed to continue yet so the staff at Compass will plant and care for the gardens. When they are ready to be harvested, the produce will again be shared with the community.
Compass also helps operate 4 other community gardens off site in the North End. The largest one, Paradise Gardens accommodates 60 gardeners. From the largest to the smallest at St David’s Church with 7 beds, Compass is helping to ensure food security for the community.