A significant donation by Crossfield’s Garden of Hope will help the Airdrie Food Bank ensure families in both communities enjoy a Thanksgiving feast.
According to garden manager Luc Rodrigue, the Garden donated slightly more than 2,800 pounds of potatoes to the food bank Sept. 23, along with other produce – lettuce, beets, carrots, onions and spaghetti squash – while also donating vegetables directly to local families.
“It’s a little bit less this year than last year,” he said. “Overall, we’ve grown just about the same amount of potatoes, but we have more families that were in need that we gave some potatoes to.”
According to Lori McRitchie, executive director of Airdrie Food Bank (AFB), potatoes are a particularly valuable donation. As a staple, she said, potatoes are supplied to each hamper the food bank distributes.
“The potatoes we’ve received from them will ensure that every family that’s getting a hamper this week, and in the few weeks ahead, will get potatoes, particularly for Thanksgiving dinner,” she said.
The donation frees up the food bank to purchase other items for hampers, particularly perishables like margarine, milk, cheese and eggs, McRitchie said.
“When we get that kind of donation, it takes that whole item off our plate,” she said. “We don’t have to be out scouring for potatoes and we’re able to focus on other things.”
Garden of Hope has existed since 2016, and is sponsored by Crossfield Baptist Church. According to Rodrigue, the garden takes up a little more than 31,000 square feet of the church’s land. He said it's an important way to support the community of Crossfield and its neighbours, and added he hopes it serves as an example of volunteerism.
Around 20 volunteers worked the garden on their own schedule throughout this year’s growing season, Rodrigue said, with additional volunteers participating in seeding at the beginning of May and harvesting in September. Around 35 people helped with the harvest this year, he added.
McRitchie said the food bank is grateful not just for the donation, but also for all the hard work of the volunteers who toiled in the garden to grow the produce.
“We’re just so thankful that people in Crossfield had the heart, that they planted and they harvested, and that they’re thinking of their neighbours with their food,” she said. “Really, that’s what Thanksgiving is about; it’s what our community is about.”
Garden of Hope partners with AFB, Rodrigue said, because of the important work the organization does regionally.
“They look after all the communities, not just Crossfield and Airdrie, and they’re doing an awesome job at it,” he said. “We have to help them out, and by helping them out, they help other families.”
While he doesn’t organize the garden to get recognition, Rodrigue said, it is a very fulfilling endeavour.
“It’s very nice to know that you helped somebody along the line,” he said. “You don’t need to know who took the potatoes or the veggies, but you know that it helped someone. It’s always a good feeling.”
According to McRitchie, AFB is working on a potential long-term partnership with Garden of Hope. The details still need to be worked out, she said, but she’s excited about the opportunity.
“They have land, they have space, they have resources to be able to provide a growing program, and we would like to work with them – provide some of our clients [and] some of our volunteers to actually do some of the physical work for them,” she said.
The food bank is always looking for donations, McRitchie added – especially gravy, stuffing, cranberries and other items that will complement a Thanksgiving meal, with the holiday right around the corner. Donations are accepted during office hours Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.