An Edmonton non-profit is hoping gardeners will keep them in mind as it becomes time to harvest fruits and vegetables.
Meals on Wheels makes, packages and delivers food to a wide range of Edmontonians, including seniors, immigrants and people with limited mobility.
For the last few years, it has been encouraging people to “Grow-a-Row” to donate and feed its clients.
“I love fresh produce,” Keith Gillard said.
Gillard is blind, so each time Meals on Wheels volunteers come to deliver meals, they talk to him about what type of foods he’s getting.
On Monday, one of the items in his package was a salad made with locally donated lettuce.
“I’m all about nutrition and variety. For me it’s just a much better taste and a much better experience if I have some fresh vegetables in my meal,” he said.
“Last year we had all sorts of things,” kitchen supervisor Jason Turner explained. “We had tomatoes, herbs like dill and parsley, potatoes, rhubarb, spinach. Basically anything that can grow in your garden. Apples! I forgot. At the end of the year we got tons and tons of apples.”
The garden treasures help keep costs down, too.
“Last year we got over 3,400 pounds donated. If you think about how much produce costs per pound, you can do the simple math and see how much of a difference it really makes with our overall budget,” communications coordinator Sarah McCrimmon said.
And there’s no need to worry about donating too much, either.
“We would wash it, trim it, process it and then we would just put it in bags and we would freeze it — just like you might do at home,” Turner explained.
With rhubarb, for example, Turner recently made a rhubarb and onion compote. In the past, they’ve baked upside down rhubarb cakes and crumbles as well.
Gardeners can trim and wash the donations if they have time, but if they’re rushed they can also just bag them up and drop them off.
Meals on Wheels accepts the donations during regular business hours at 11111 103 Avenue.
“Nothing will go to waste,” Turner said.
Getting free local food also helps with food security.
“It doesn’t matter if produce prices skyrocket or if there’s a halt in something having to do with our regular providers — we can still provide great meals for our clients because of this grow-a-row program,” McCrimmon explained.
Gillard said if someone is growing a garden already, it would be nice if they could consider sharing their bounty.
“I kind of liken it to giving blood. Some people can’t afford to donate money to charity, so they give blood,” Gillard said. “It’s a selfless activity that costs no money — it just involves a little bit of time. Why not add that extra row, do something really good for the community and offer more fresh vegetables and fruits, if possible, to Meals on Wheels clients?”