CHARLOTTE/YORK COUNTY – This week, The Saint Croix Courier’s ongoing food sustainability series finds out about food banks and cutting-edge gardening projects in McAdam and Campobello.
A lot goes on under the Lakeland umbrella outside McAdam. The buildings at 2270, Route 4 house a thrift store, the Lakeland Resource Center food bank, and Lakeland Industries. Lakeland Industries is a non-profit agency which provides support for adults with physical and developmental challenges. The edges are sometimes blurred between each organization in order to share resources, explains Crissy Thurber, who has been with Lakeland for over 19 years. Thurber now divides her time between her role as executive director of the Lakeland Resources food bank, and that of executive assistant to Lakeland Industries’ chief executive officer and the board of directors. Other ways the various branches share resources is to have people from Lakeland Industries “pack and box the food” for the food bank. Thurber is also able to send food bank clients to the thrift store for assistance with occasional necessities.
Lakeland Industries incorporated in 1983, and two years later the food bank opened. Currently, the food bank program serves 40 families monthly. Echoing what has been said in The Saint Croix Courier articles from food programs in St. George and Saint Andrews, Thurber finds there is a recent increase in the need for food programs.
“COVID found families with more money, at first,” Thurber says, “but now with inflation it’s $6.89 for a package of wieners. We have had five new families in the last six months.”
Helping Lakeland Resource Center carry out its programs are individuals, local businesses, and organizations. As with most New Brunswick food banks, Lakeland Resource Center is a member of Food Depot Alimentaire, which provides them with frozen food and palettes of dry food. Also, Thurber says, sometimes a family “will drop off groceries. Maybe it’s been 10 years since we’ve seen them,” she explains, “but they say, ‘We’re off assistance now. I’m working, my wife’s working, and we want to give back’.
“Corey’s Independent has been great to us. J.H. Cook and Son has helped with the milk and egg program,” Thurber says. “And we get help from the Lions Club, other organizations, and the municipal government.”
Thurber also credits the grant-writing capabilities of herself and members on the board in gaining assistance. Through grants programs are started as, for example, a We’ve Got Your Back program. With the help of volunteers, kids in approximately 20 families in two McAdam schools are sent home with some groceries for the weekend. “Kids are busy and hungry on the weekend,” says Thurber.
In 2009, the food bank was able to add a garden with the assistance of MAZON Canada, whose Facebook page explains, “The Jewish Response to Hunger, MAZON Canada alleviates hunger and poverty across Canada, coast-to-coast.” Lakeland Resources was able to establish a 6 m/20 ft. by 36 m/120 ft. garden. “We put the harvest in the food boxes,” Thurber explains. “It’s planted and taken care of by Lakeland clients as a learning program. We’d like to make it a job this summer, as we move to an employment model and hire two to do the work.
“The overage from the vegetables is sold in our thrift store in a little stand,” she adds.
Thurber has a plan for increasing the fresh vegetables available for Lakeland Resource Center clients. “We want to go bigger,” she says. “We’re working on an application for a year-round greenhouse in a shipping container. Food bank families could grow their own vegetables. We could employ three or four people.” Thurber says of her plan, “I’m hoping this will happen by next year.”
Sherry Johnston, administrator and director of nursing at the 30-bed nursing home Campobello Lodge in Welshpool, was going through some pictures when she was jolted by a brain wave. “Back in 2018,” Johnston says, “I was looking at a picture of our front yard. It’s a large area, and it’s gated. And the idea of a community garden popped into my mind. The more I was thinking about it,” Johnston continues, “the way the building was set with the sun all day, and we wanted something to draw the community in, I knew it was the right idea.”
Johnston contacted a group of five or six people she thought might be interested in helping. The first year was spent putting together garden boxes. “And we wanted to try different types of gardening too, such as straw bale gardening,” Johnston says. “Now, as a society we’ve gotten away from food sustainability.”
Now there are 20 boxes in the garden that are available to community members free of charge. Fees were waived on the gardens so any barriers to participation would be removed. “We wanted to be inclusive, to add something to our property and our nursing home,” Johnston says. Government grants, community donations, and winning a Kent Building Supplies gardening prize has helped provide equipment and materials.
The benefits, in addition to food, are numerous. Some of the gardens are strategically placed near the windows. “Even if people are bed ridden, they can look out their windows and see the daffs [daffodils] growing.
“Orientation is so important,” Johnston says, “when you stay in the same rooms, you lose track of time, the year, the seasons. But you keep on top of the season by seeing daffodils and knowing it’s spring and it makes you feel apart of it. Even if you can’t get out of bed.
“You can see it right outside your window.”
Residents, during COVID restrictions, liked to look out their windows see people weeding or watering in the gardens. “I’d come into work,” Johnston says, “and say to a person, ‘I just saw your grandson doing some gardening, come over to the window and have a look.’
“Even during COVID,” Johnston says, “it wasn’t dangerous to talk through the window, our windows on the garden.”
The sensory benefit of gardens is something valuable “especially for people with dementia.
“The herb garden is close to the deck so residents can go out and experience the plants.” Johnston says one woman liked to put her hands into sifted soil, just to feel it. “We also make sure,” Thurber says, “that we plant things that are accessible to them.” Staff brings in fresh mint for lemonade or strawberries for their cereal. “They told me there’s nothing like warm strawberries before they hit the fridge.”
Several residents are able to go out into the garden to help. “Our activity director is a huge gardener. She takes residents out so they can grow carrots, or zucchini, whatever they like, if that’s what they grew, if that’s what they were a part of,” Johnston says. She says gardens were commonplace in previous generations, and to some residents, the hard work involved was just “what they did.
“It was the norm for everybody to have a vegetable garden and a flower garden.” We can tap into this knowledge, Johnston says, because “there is so much information to learn that is really interesting. Residents tell us different things, like ‘do this’, or don’t plant certain things together’.”