Kimberley McPherson exemplifies the “food champion” every community needs in order to drive the good food movement.
Kimmy started out as a volunteer at the Glace Bay Food Bank. A lifelong gardener, it didn’t take her long to get the itch to turn the unused backyard of the food bank into…well, something spectacular. Bit it was more than a love for plants that fired Kimmy’s passion. She fondly recounts a pivotal experience, when an 11 year old boy that spent time at their house, and in their garden, had never seen a fresh bean before. Kim sent him home with a bag of beans and a note. That boy came back every day thereafter. When winter finally afforded her the time to research, she discovered the alarming statistic: 1 in 3 children in Cape Breton are living in poverty. She decided that the best way to help was to do what she does best. Grow food!
A visit to the Glace Bay Food Bank’s garden will quickly show you that Kimmy is gifted at more than growing food. The start-up season two year ago involved the orchestration of around 30 volunteers aged 2-80! Between volunteers needing Kimmy’s guidance, organizations breezing through to learn and share, and food bank clients just enjoying the space, a huge part of her service is just helping people feel good, in an every day sort of way. She has a calm yet in-charge demeanor that sets all involved at ease.
There are two volunteers that have been helping in the garden every time I have stopped in. Megan Moss is a young student volunteer with zero past gardening experience. She originally intended to work towards a degree in Psychology, but she has since honed her focus. This fall she will begin studies in the area of Horticultural Therapy. Fred Peach spent many years of his life keeping a garden in Caldonia. Since moving into senior’s accommodations, he has no land to call his own. Fred has got a green thumb, but his driving motivation is that it gives him something to look forward to. “I felt needed here”, he said. “I still feel needed”.
Although the garden is a therapeutic and educational space, it also fills a much-needed gap in fresh produce supply. The food bank receives fresh food on Thursdays from Feed Nova Scotia. The rest of the week, they are forced to make due with packaged foods. The Glace Bay Food Bank serves around 70 meals per day, Monday to Friday, year-round, in addition to approximately 30 food hampers that go out each day. In order to supplement the meal program and the food hampers, Kimmy has taken on the task of preserving any surplus produce, both from the on-site garden, and donations. In her calm and casual way, she also rounds up keen food bank clients to participate in the preserving. Some have even started doing their own home preserving as a result.
The Glace Bay Food Bank has recently received a whole lot of press due to vandalizing of their garden. An unidentified vandal(s) sprayed some sort of oil or fuel on a section of the garden, destroying the vegetables and forcing the removal of 18” of topsoil from that block. The team at the garden was heart-broken by the act, and so was the greater community. Donations of topsoil, plants and money poured in from local businesses and citizens, and from people coast to coast. “It was a positive outcome from a negative incident. I wish it had never happened, but out of a bad situation there has come more awareness,” explains Kimmy. They promptly removed affected soil, replaced it, and replanted. This labour of love will not be stopped by such an unfortunate act.
Things are back to “business as usual” after the whirlwind of the crime. The cucumbers are quietly making their way up the trellis, the flowers bloom and fade, and Kim continues on her crusade to bring security, health, and joy through good food.
Jody Nelson is the Community Food Coordinator for Cape Breton with the Our Food Project of the Ecology Action Centre.
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