Large light green bag with bundles of seed packets

(Submitted photo)


CPAN’s ‘Growing at Home’ offers gardening kits to families

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday July 23rd, 2020


The Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network’s (CPAN) new Growing at Home initiative aims to teach kids the benefits of gardening while providing them with healthy, wholesome foods at home.

The initiative is a spin-off from the Good EGG (Good Edible Grassroots Garden). Good EGG is a partnership between CPAN, 15 schools and the students themselves, but with schools closed, students have not been able to participate in this program. So CPAN Executive Director Lyn Smith has made it possible for them to garden at home.

“I remember when I first brought the program to school, some kids had never, ever tried fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Smith. “They didn’t know what they were eating.”

During COVID-19, she has been sending families gardening kits with seeds that are ready to be planted at home, bringing fruits and vegetables from the schoolyard to their backyards and balconies. None of these seeds requires specialized tools like trellises or raised boxes, and can be grown with minimum care.

“Food security is a huge thing,” said Smith. “It is one of the social determinants of health. One of the things we need to look at closely in Renfrew County.”

Often families who are living in poverty are in survival mode. They either can’t afford fresh produce, or it goes to waste. By giving the kids the skills, knowledge and tools to grow food, it removes some of the burden on parents.

But as well as growing delicious fruits and vegetables, gardening is also linked to a host of health and social benefits, which the children will reap.

A study named “Edible School Gardens - A Review of the Benefits of School Gardens, Best Practices and Resources” by Hayley Morrison proved that there are no downsides to children gardening. It improves their self-esteem, their confidence, their teamwork skills and levels the playing field for all incomes.

“One thing that surprised her and me is that it proves that gardening makes kids flexible thinkers,” said Smith, pointing out it encourages critical thinking and allows them to use their problem solving skills.

She also noted that picky eaters who grow their own vegetables are far more likely to eat their bounty, even if it is food that they typically refuse to try.

There is also the hope that the children will share what they’ve learned with their parents.

“I learned recycling from my kids,” admitted Smith, “like I think most of us did.

“It is a lot like giving a fish to a man, and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for life,” she added.

The initiative is open to any family interested in gardening at home. CPAN has already provided gardening kits to over 300 families in Renfrew County.

For more information or to receive a gardening kit, visit www.renfrewcountycpan.ca and https://www.facebook.com/childpovertyactionnetwork or contact Lyn Smith at lsmith@phoenixctr.com.