With tens of thousands across the province relying on community gardens for affordable, local food, the Ontario government made a big mistake when it included them in its list of recreational activities to be shut down in the effort to #FlattenTheCurve on the coronavirus pandemic, a non-profit food security group warns in a release this week.
Just Food is urging its members to write to local MPPs to get the error corrected.
“Everyone is working hard, and we are trusting this is just an oversight, but please immediately remove outdoor community gardens from the list of closures,” the organization writes in its suggested letter template. “Thousands upon thousands of families rely on community gardens to produce food for their families each year,” and “we must not identify community gardens as recreational activities, as for many, many people community gardens are essential ways that community members access their food.”
As a model of community food production, the local gardens are “seen as integral to the COVID-19 response in countries throughout the world, particularly as food prices increase and global food supplies are increasingly uncertain,” Just Food adds. “Food banks also receive tonnes of much-needed fresh food in Ottawa from local community garden efforts. Community gardening availability should be enhanced, not limited, especially at this time.”
The provincial release shuts down “all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario”, with Health Minister Christine Elliott saying the government is “acting on the best advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health and other leading public health officials across the province”. Just Food echoes the overarching need for safety, indicating that its Ottawa Community Gardening Network is “working with public health departments to achieve such safety protocols and is a key partner in communicating critical public health messages to our communities”.
In a blog post last week, Just Food emphasized that community gardening is an essential service, adding that it was in touch with public health and had reached out to other food networks across North America to share ideas on next steps. “With food security becoming ever more looming, and many uncertainties ahead, we are gathering tips and ideas on how communities, households, and businesses are responding to food access,” the organization stated.
The post invited local community gardeners’ ideas on physical distancing, types of food to grow this year, staggered gardening schedules, and more.