When Victoria High School students get their lunch at the school cafeteria, it’s likely that at least some of the food they enjoy will have come from their own garden.
It’s a program that recently caught the attention of Victoria Horticultural Society (V.H.S.) members, who have reached into their own resources to help the school’s garden grow.
“We’re the oldest gardening club in Victoria, and when we looked at what the young people at Victoria High were doing, we knew this was something we wanted to support,” said society president Margaret Hantiuk.
“Food security is a growing concern in Victoria and we took a look at how this program is growing food that’s consumed right on site and knew it was a program we wanted to support.”
The society’s $500 donation will be used to purchase seeds, tools and materials for the upcoming growing season.
Hantiuk hopes this year’s contribution is just the first in a planned effort to continue support for the school project.
Vic High principal Aaron Parker expressed his gratitude to the society for their support and noted that the organization offers more than just a financial contribution.
“The V.H.S.’s knowledge and encouragement provides a wonderful opportunity for Vic High students to study sustainable food systems through hands-on learning within their school and community,” he said.
The donation is the latest in an outpouring of community support for the food project, which this year will unveil an expanded garden footprint, multiplying the original 50-by-50-foot garden plot threefold.
Aaren Topley, the Capital Region animator for Farm to School B.C., has been involved with the project since its inception in 2015, when it applied for a grant from his organization.
“They’ve had support from us and from another organization named Farm to Cafeteria Canada, who also funded a part of the project,” Topley said.
“There’s also been local sponsors like Tower Fencing, who donated the fencing for the project and people like Jesse Brown from the Mason Street Farm, who has worked with the students to help design the garden and provide some education to the students and staff on how to manage the site.”
According to Parker, the garden project offers far more than just fresh food for the student cafeteria.
“We have a section for local Indigenous culture, including a healing wheel planted with herbs and other indigenous plants, and a camus garden as a sample of an Indigenous food source. It’s all surrounded by the vegetable garden and together, the whole thing provides an enormous learning opportunity for the students and staff alike,” he said.
The school district is even offering a professional development day to help teachers gain the skills to make them comfortable with the farming and cooking aspects of the program, according to Topley.
“This is the type of program that can change the way we look at sustainable living and we’re proud to be supporting the students and staff in this worthwhile project,” added Hantiuk.
The Victoria Horticultural Society meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. in Saanich. In additional to monthly plant sales, pre-meeting workshops, networking with other gardeners and gardening associations, the members hear from expert guest speakers who share their knowledge of plants, insects and gardening for both the food and ornamental gardener.
More information is available at vichortsociety.org.