Food and groceries program helps families in New West and Burnaby

The Food Program helps charities that support families and individuals in need in New West and Burnaby

There will be plenty of gardening giveaways when this year’s Plant A Row – Grow a Row program kicks off.

The annual program encourages people to plant an extra row of food – or more – in their gardens or planters to donate to people in need of fresh produce. Starting June 12, the Plant a Row-Grow a Row collection of fresh food donations (produced on site or bought in store) and non-perishables will take place every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. at St. Thomas More Collegiate.

But first, organizers are kicking off this year’s program with a fun giveaway event on May Day.

“It’s really about coming in and being part of the party,” said Claude Le Doux, which coordinates the local program. “You will be amazed at what you will get. Gifts are very important.

Prior to COVID-19, the program held a spring garden party with speakers and giveaways to kick off the season. Like last year, this year’s May Day event will be a drive-thru where people can shop for gardening gifts (first come, first served) and donate to two charities.

“We are looking for donations – financial and food items. It will be for Union Gospel Mission and Ryan’s Rainbow, which is geared toward families. They are preparing about 160 to 180 food parcels for the families. They have so many families that they support,” LeDoux said. “All the food goes to these different places.”

Plant a Row – Grow a Row volunteers will distribute vegetable transplants and seeds, pre-planted decorative containers with vegetables, perennials, potting soil and many items to get your garden off to a great start! Garden gifts were donated by master gardener Brian Minter, the Compost Council of Canada, Gardenworks, local horticultural suppliers, volunteers and LeDoux.

“We have a lot more than we had last year,” he said. “Always lots of items and gifts for kids – specifically to get them involved in growing food, vegetables for themselves and for the community, to learn and be part of our community.”

The Compost Council of Canada kicks off its Canada-wide Compost Week events with Plant a Row – Grow a Row. He will donate seeds and bagged compost for the event.

“Because of how strong we have been and how strong our community is in giving, they are always amazed at what we do, how much we donate, how much food we donate, and they send a representative from the Compost Council to start on their Canadian Compost Week, they’re doing New Westminster and then they’ll go to Calgary and so on.

Growing interest in gardening

LeDoux said interest in gardening has increased since the pandemic began.

“It was overwhelming. The whole industry is reeling from the interest and desire to have this available to them – any plants, seeds or containers,” he said. “It moved forward very quickly, where before people were interested but now they’ve really shown a much stronger interest, which is great for us.”

LeDoux, who is the former director of horticulture for the City of New Westminster and the founder of the local Plant a Row-Grow a Row program, encourages people to grow vegetables and fruit – and try to grow things which they may not have cultivated before.

“There was a huge buzz,” he said. “The great interest is in the diversity of all kinds of different types of vegetables. That’s why I have a lot of different types of seeds.

The Plant a Row Grow a Row 2022 event will take place on Sunday, May 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of St. Thomas More Collegiate School, 7450 12th Ave. (just across the border at Burnaby near Kingsway). People are asked to wear masks and stay in their cars; they will go to the school parking lot and be directed by volunteers on where to go.

“They’ll do a loop in the parking lot and someone will give them items to put right in their car,” LeDoux said. “We’ll give them the items and they’ll put them right in their car so they don’t have to get out.”

Volunteers will also gratefully accept cash donations and non-perishable food donations for Plant a Row-Grow a Row, Ryan’s Rainbow Emergency Food Outreach in Burnaby and Union Gospel Mission in New Westminster.

The weekly Plant a Row – Grow a Row fresh, non-perishable food donation drive takes place every Sunday from June 12 through October 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. at St. Thomas More Collegiate.

Ryan H. Bowman