Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Planting season, while it may be well underway in the southern parts of our country, is just getting started here in Labrador. The snow is melting and we will soon be able to work the ground, preparing the beds for another yield of potatoes, turnip, carrots and other vegetables that thrive in a northern climate.
Each year, MCC partner The Community Food Hub, works with schools to begin planting seedling for their Children’s Garden. Grade four students plant hundreds of seedlings and care for them at the school until June. Before school ends for the summer, the students, teachers and Food Hub volunteers transplant the seedlings into the Children’s Garden. Throughout the summer various programs are offered to help the students stay engaged in the growing process. They learn soil preparation, composting, transplanting, watering and about ongoing care of the garden.
In September, now in Grade five, the students are invited back to the garden for harvesting and Food Hub volunteers make a meal with the students. They are able to enjoy the results of their hard work and, quite often, try foods that are new to them.
Kelly Goudie, LG Health Promotion and Wellness Coordinator says, “The awesome thing about the Children’s garden and seedling program is that learning to grow your own food is an excellent skill and the children love to get dirty. So this program is feel good all around, children learn a valuable skill and have fun at the same time.”
According to the Community Food Hub, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of affordable, nutritious, safe, culturally appropriate foods, produced in environmentally sustainable ways and provided in a manner that promotes human dignity.” That’s a lot to convey to a Grade four class, but hands on activities really help.
Food security in Canada’s north is tenuous. The short growing season, the increased inability to acquire country food and the cost of shipping are all prohibitive factors. Factoring in the highest unemployment rates in the country and extremely high poverty rates in Newfoundland and Labrador, counting on three meals a day can be widely considered a luxury.
Food security discussions hit close to home for students who regularly visit the local food banks and are accustomed to being hungry. Teaching that there’s opportunity to have control over a food source, regardless of the limitations, helps to spread hope. Gardening gives students tangible skills for change. It’s a fun departure from regular classes and while hands are getting dirty, conversations are taking the students into areas of social issues, health and science in an age-appropriate way.
Proverbs 31:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Commentaries agree that this passage can apply to anything. When young people are able to understand, begin teaching the fundamental skills for a successful life like faith, patience and a love of learning.
Planting carrot seeds is a really good thing, but planting the seeds of knowledge, change, hope and self-sufficiency can impact lives, leading to long-term systemic change.