Gardening for Groceries


Lesley Johansen knows how important fresh fruit and vegetables can be in any one’s diet. And she also understands that good, fresh produce can often be beyond the financial reach of many families in this area.

“About a year ago, while I was working at the House of Lazarus,” Lesley explained, “I was living in a cabin in Mountain. At the time, I found myself in a very tight financial situation where I needed to turn to the Dundas Food Bank. I realized then that Food Banks often don’t have fresh fruit and vegetables on hand.”

Three months ago a plan to help remedy this situation came to her.

“I thought, what if people who gardened planted an extra row in their vegetable gardens, then took what they raised in that row and donated this overflow to the Food Bank? Most gardeners end up with more vegetables than their families can use anyway, and often give this extra produce away. Why not give it to the Dundas Food Bank, or the House of Lazarus?” She contacted both organizations, and organizers are excited about her plan for “Gardening for Groceries,” and very willing to take in all the fresh produce she and the community can supply them.

Lesley would be the first to admit that she is just a novice gardener herself, but she has already started a garden plot in the backyard of her home, and intends, like many more seasoned gardeners, to get her plants in on the upcoming long weekend. She did research for her Gardening for Groceries project, and discovered many sites that provide advice and information for gardeners who would like to help provide healthy, fresh food alternatives to Food Bank clients.

Some local businesses have already donated tools, started plants and seeds for starter kits for Food Bank clients who might like to plant a vegetable garden themselves.

If this project takes off, Johansen has some long term goals in mind. “In the long term, I would like to set up a year-round facility to grow produce locally. I found an amazing company called Freight Farms which actually uses re-cycled transport trailers, which they turn into a hydroponic system, basically an indoor garden in a trailer. This system allows the production of leafy greens, in particular, which can be grown in a 4-7 week cycle, year round. It is totally suited to even our Canadian climate. Such a system already exists in Cornwall called Smart Greens, and they can hardly keep up with the interest.”

Knowing that fresh produce is often not available, or very expensive and outside the budgets of the working poor, Johansen is seeking help to put healthy food on all dinner tables in this area. She knows that Food Bank clients would appreciate food grown locally, by neighbours, rather than products trucked in from thousands of kilometres away. She hopes to make it as easy as possible for gardeners getting on board with her Gardening for Groceries project, to get their overflow produce to those who would most appreciate it.

“People can take their garden produce directly to the Food Bank. If they mention Gardening for Groceries, that food will be weighed and a record kept to gauge how the idea is catching on. I will also be personally arranging for once-a-week pickups, going around the community and gathering fruits and vegetables.”

Her phone number for pick-ups is 613-282-0660. People can also go to to find out more about the project, or to make a donation, money which will then be spent in local food markets. Interested visitors can also check out

“The idea of this project is to help the people in our community,” Lesley Johansen said. “We hope to accommodate what is seasonal in our pick ups. And no donation of fresh produce is too big or too small for us. I will be glad to pick up any produce that people want to donate.” 

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