By: KATRINA SQUAZZIN
The Graduate Students’ Association at Carleton University is hoping that a newly built community garden will help address issues of food security on campus.
In 2012, the GSA began constructing a garden at the back of the university campus for members of the Carleton community to grow and produce food for free. The GSA Carleton Community Garden is now officially open for planting to students and groups who applied for one of the 26 plots.
“The main purpose of the garden is to basically create a situation where students can grow healthy, culturally appropriate food for free from student space,” said Chris Bisson, GSA Carleton Community Garden manager.
“At Carleton, … we have a situation of extreme food insecurity. Students don’t have access to food in adequate amounts, and certainly not nutritious types of food. The degree of food security is so severe that one way of addressing it is by having a community garden where students can grow food themselves.”
The World Health Organization website defines the concept of food security as “including both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences.”
The GSA started taking applications in April for space in the garden from members of the Carleton community and surrounding areas. The association received as many applications as they have garden plots, to which the average size is three by six feet. All 26 plots will be tended to, with most of the gardeners being graduate students.
One of the groups that have a plot in the Community Garden is the CUSA Food Centre. The Food Centre provides a number of services to students, such as the Emergency Food Hamper Program that was accessed by 187 students in October according to the Food Centre’s website.
“The Food Centre acts as the on-campus food bank,” said Bisson, who recently graduated with a Master of Arts in Geography. “However, food banks are not a solution to food insecurity, they’re a temporary fix. I’d ideally like to see it one day that we no longer need to have food banks because we just have food access for all as a general structure of society, certainly on campus. That would be phenomenal.”
According to Bisson, having a garden that is easily accessible to students on the Carleton University campus is an idea that is long overdue.
“There had been attempts before to demand a community garden or space for a community garden and basically, more or less, it had been rejected,” he said. “But the GSA managed to successfully argue the need for it and then pretty much just said ‘we’re gonna start one, where do you want us to put it.’”
The gardening season is expected to last until October. Bisson said he hopes that with the establishment of the Community Garden, the GSA has planted a seed that will continue to grow.
“There will probably be continued interest in the garden from students, I’m sure. Ideally, I’d like to see the garden expand … Hopefully it will be around forever.”