A new eco-friendly initiative at Kingsway Mall is benefiting not only the environment, but the local food bank as well.
The urban rooftop garden at the central Edmonton mall is the result of a partnership with Micro Habitat, a sustainability and urban farming organization.
The rooftop garden is set up with 30 pots of fresh produce and herbs, the harvest of which will go completely to the food bank.
The freshly planted produce — a category often overlooked when donating food items — will eventually grow and become hundreds of pounds worth of fresh food for Edmontonians in need.
“They actually need produce, which I don’t think a lot of people realize,” said Bo Tarasenko with Kingsway Mall. “They’re used to donating cans at the grocery store, but the food bank needs a lot of fresh produce.”
He said the mall has always wanted to do a rooftop garden, but it wasn’t until this year that the logistics came together. Micro Habitat keeps things running smoothly, tending to the plants and harvesting when ready.
Kingsway Mall has been a longtime supporter of the Edmonton Food Bank, which welcomes this new project.
“When people bring their stuff from the gardens, they go to our walk-in coolers and then (it) immediately gets sent out to our hamper line,” said Tamisan Bencz-Knight, executive director of the Edmonton Food Bank.
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She said the organization has run its Plant, Grow, Share a Row program for over 20 years. The initiative encourages people to grow their own food, whether they have a planter box on their balcony or a large garden space in their backyard.
The number of people relying on food from the food bank has grown significantly since the start of the pandemic. The organization currently feeds more than 35,000 people a month through its hamper program alone and buys $280,000 worth of food a month to keep up with demand.
“That’s almost the equivalent population of Lloydminster. That’s huge volumes. Lots of people are in need,” said Bencz-Knight.
She added that fresh food donated to the food bank also goes out to community organizations like the Mustard Seed and Boyle Street that are serving up freshly made meals to the city’s vulnerable populations.
“If me, as an individual, could go out and buy my own food, I would have all the choices I want. I could buy my frozen, I could buy my fresh, I could buy my packaged. That’s what we want to provide as options for the people that we’re serving,” she said.
This season, whether it’s from the rooftop or your own garden, both Kingsway Mall and the food bank are encouraging people to donate any extra produce they may have from harvest.
“People growing food for us and bringing it to our warehouse will help us make sure we have that fresh food in people’s hampers, in people’s homes,” said Bencz-Knight.
— with files from Mikaela Henschel, Global News