The gardens in ‘the Bronx’ neighborhood of Cross Lake were established in 2012 by community members to create a positive space, build new skills and grow healthy foods. The Mikisew School took a lead role in creating these gardens and we hoped that they would be a place where the students who attend Mikisew School Garden Club could build their skills and then use them at home in their own gardens. There are 10 garden beds for students and community members to use.
The cooking component was added in 2016 to provide families with the opportunity to learn how to cook healthy meals that are diabetic friendly and promote food traditions of Cross Lake. Local Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative workers manage the cooking classes.
Food Matters Manitoba plays a supportive role in both the garden and cooking classes. For the garden, it has been difficult to find adults who have gardening skills and will spend time (either paid or volunteer) to consistently help organize and run the gardens. The children love to come out on planting days and to see how the food is growing, but we need more help and organization to do the weeding and watering for the garden to grow really well. There is so much value in getting outside together and getting our hands dirty.
In 2016, Carol Blair, a local lunch program volunteer at Mikesew School, helped organize the garden. Carol is a long time gardener in the community and lives directly across from the community garden space. Carol, her son Marcus, and community member and volunteer Frank prepared the planting space. Carol and Marcus then took the lead of planting vegetable seeds with children from around the area. It was a rainy summer which lead to some delays in getting the seeds in the ground. Each volunteer was paid an honorarium throughout the summer for their contribution to the project. Scheduling and organizing continues to be one of the most challenging aspects of the garden, as well as regular access to tools and supplies.
The cooking classes are offered through the Cross Lake Health Centre and Prenatal Nutrition Program. Twice a month, Wendy and Sonia from the health centre host cooking classes for local mothers and children. Local food champion, Donna Hoppener, volunteers with the program by providing a variety of different diabetes friendly recipes and helping during the classes. These classes are popular and we plan to do more of them. We would also like to incorporate more traditional foods and food from the land into our cooking.
To find out more about the Garden and Cooking Project please read here.
To find out more about other community partners please read here.