Gardening program teaches youth to give back to the community
TORONTO- Students from John Polanyi Collegiate Institute in North York are learning the importance of being connected to the environment through the PACT Grow to Learn program.
The program is designed to teach schools and communities about food and gardening.
Natalie Boustead, the program’s manager, teaches students the entire growing cycle from seedlings to harvest.
“PACT Grow to Learn started about 6-years ago,” Boustead said. “We now have 5 large scale gardens on TDSB property across Toronto, mostly in priority neighbourhoods.”
“It’s not just about connecting with schools anymore, it’s about connecting with the wider community and spreading the message of why local food is important.”
The program creates safe, experiential and positive learning environments in low-income neighbourhoods, as well as acts as a catalyst in raising awareness of important issues related to healthy eating, food security, environmental sustainability and hunger in schools and local communities.
Rahim Essabhai is a grade 11 teacher at John Polanyi Collegiate Institute who believes very strongly in the Grow to Learn program and how it is helping students reconnect with nature.
“As a teacher, when you make something so real, you know that kid is truly going to remember it, versus one paragraph on page 52 of any textbook” Essabhai said.
The PACT program teaches students how to grow perennial plants, perennial strawberries, fruit trees, berry bushes and a full season of vegetables, all of which are donated to local food banks to be distributed throughout the community.
One of the local food banks which Grow to Learn donates their fresh produce to, is the North York Harvest Food Bank where Daniel Liadsky is the director of community engagement.
“Over the season we get 8,000 pounds of food from Grow to Learn,” Liadsky said. “At North York Harvest, we love to see young people get involved in their community and the garden is an exceptional opportunity for that community engagement.”
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