Brescia University College plants seeds of support with new community garden

Community garden signAbove: The grounds of Brescia University College’s future community garden

It is currently estimated that over 4.4 million people suffer from food insecurity in Canada, and that women are more likely to experience food insecurity than men. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, women across the nation have become increasingly challenged to not only provide for themselves, but for their families – with many flooding to their local food banks and driving a need for products. The London Food Bank alone has seen a 27 per cent rise in attendance this year. 

In response to these alarming statistics, and in a commitment to the London community, Brescia University College is planting an on-campus community garden effective spring 2021. Made possible by a $38,000 “seed” grant through the Fund for Gender Equality and the London Community Foundation, the Community Garden will help serve those facing food insecurity within the Brescia and London community – with a particular focus on women in-need. 

“Over the past year, Brescia has observed with great concern the state of food security for our community, city and world,” says Brescia’s Vice-Principal, Academic Dean and garden founder, Dr. Lauretta Frederking. She affirms, “With more and more people in our community unsure of where their next meal will come from, and as proud members of the London community, we knew that we had a responsibility to step up and work collaboratively to help serve our local community and to help get many women through this difficult time.” 

As an educational leader in the areas of Food and Nutritional Sciences and the stream of leadership, management and non-profit education, Brescia’s community garden is designed to bring Brescia students, faculty and staff together to both provide new experiential learning and research opportunities, while also providing fresh produce to the London community – distributing predominantly to women through a partnership with the London Food Bank.

Honouring Brescia’s Ursuline history and integrating Indigenous practices and initiatives, the garden will be complete in phases, with the first phase producing a garden that measures 1,700 square feet. The garden will grow produce, such as potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, kale and Swiss chard. Initial planting will be completed May 30, 2021 and the first shipment to the Food Bank is expected to occur September 2021.
 
Development for the Community Garden will be co-led by the University’s executive in-house Red Seal Chef, Tim D’Souza, Learning & Development Specialist, Experiential Education, Tamara Thompson and Foods and Nutrition Professor, Dr. Danielle Battram. The team expects that the garden will result in fresh produce by 2021 and aspires to serve 100 women each year in the years following through sustainable farming practices. In addition to providing healthy food for women in need, produce from the garden will also be used in Brescia’s on-campus dining hall, The Mercato.

In response to this new green initiative at Brescia, which has deep ties to Brescia’s past, D’Souza reflects, “The Ursuline Sisters, who founded Brescia in 1919, used our natural land to grow produce, which fed its students and community until 1962. The Ursulines always understood the importance of respecting our natural space, and using fresh ingredients to maintain the health of the community. This community garden not only allows us to honour our heritage, while having easy access to fresh produce and herbs, but it also gives us a unique opportunity to make a difference in our community – just as the Ursulines have always done.”

The Fund for Gender Equality and Communities for Gender Equality is supported by a collaboration between Community Foundations of Canada and the Equality Fund, with support from the Government of Canada.

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For more information, please contact:

Caitlin Core, Acting Manager, Communications, Marketing & External Relations at ccore@uwo.ca  or Rhea Johnson, Acting VP Students at rhea.johnson@uwo.ca or 519-636-9408.

About Brescia University College

Brescia University College, Canada’s women’s university college, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,600 women registered as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in the Schools of Behavioural & Social Sciences, Food & Nutritional Sciences, Humanities, and Leadership & Social Change in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. As a Catholic University College, Brescia welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room, at brescia.uwo.ca/communications/media_relations.

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