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The Urban Pantry and our Community

Kim Keckes and Jenna Zardo of Urban Pantry

Urban Pantry, a CMHA initiative funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is a vital, grassroots movement for every resident in the city.

Many of us don’t realize how deeply important our non-profit groups are and what they succeed in achieving!

Urban Pantry actually encompasses three vital programs available to everyone.

Jenna Zardo explains each of the programs and the positive impact they have for each of us.

Introducing the Community Garden Program

First we have the wonderful Community Garden program, enjoyed by so many.  The gardens were first established by Living Green a number of years ago, however are now implemented and run by Urban Pantry.

The City of Barrie is the contact point for signing up for the gardens. The allotment gardents are a great opportunity for those who don’t have outdoor space and can be a way for families to be engaged together outdoors.  They are also wonderful for residents that desire to cut cost, eat fresh, share, learn and teach others.  In order to obtain a plot in your local Community Garden, you need to register with the City of Barrie.  Urban Pantry works in collaboration with the City making them accessible to as many residents as possible.

The gardens promote education and healthy eating, but most importantly Community caring and sharing.

The garden in my neighborhood is a tribute to many.  Even last summer with social distancing a must, it was a place to share space and meet friends!  Excess produce was shared amongst neighbors or donated – how wonderful is that!

Urban Pantry would love to see more volunteers out there!  This is a call out to you – Master Gardeners!  It’s a wonderful way to pass your skills and love of the garden to others.

There are more gardens in the planning stages – Thank Goodness!  Research strongly shows that Community Gardens not only increase neighboring home values, but have a huge impact in disadvantaged neighborhoods – reducing crime by increasing community togetherness.

Each garden comes at a cost though.  It takes anywhere from 5-20K to ready and maintain a neighborhood garden.  At the higher cost the gardens offer mobility- impaired residents the ability to enjoy gardening in raised beds.

Because of costs there is always a need for donations and fundraising.  Every little bit helps!

Introducing the Good Food Box Program

Volunteer, Good Food Box Program
Good Food Box

The second part of the 3-part initiative is the Good Food Box program.  This is a monthly, pre-order program of a box of wholesome seasonal fruit and vegetables.  It’s a very affordable way to eat good, healthy food.

The program is open to all Barrie Residents making it a very successful and convenient way of shopping!

Introducing Community Cooking Classes

Bev MacDonald volunteer community cooking class facilitator
Cooking class prepared meal

The final part of Urban Pantry’s three-part program is their Community Cooking Classes.

The classes are a wonderful way to teach young moms, independent youth and adults to cook easy nutritious meals with their seasonal produce and more.

Run by Zoom at the moment, participants are taught everything from kitchen safety to complete meal prep!

Each of the programs is vital to a strong and healthy community!  We all know how important good food is to nourishing healthy minds and healthy bodies!

Even during COVID, Urban Panty has been able to continue with each of the programs, which is a feat in itself!

Let’s give them all the help we can!

GROW!     FOOD!     EAT!

Written by: Jane Laker

Photo Credit: Stephen Elliott

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