Community Compost Project: PACT Grow Too Learn
The PACT Grow-to-Learn (GTL) Schoolyard Gardening Program and Food Initiative is designed to teach schools and communities about food and gardening. The program creates safe, experiential and positive learning environments in low-income neighbourhoods, as well as acts as a catalyst in raising awareness of important issues related to healthy eating/nutrition, food security, environmental sustainability and hunger in our schools and local communities.
Our JPCI (John Polyani Collegiate Institute) garden is our largest growing site with 47,000 square feet of growing and educational space. The Garden and its programming has become an essential space for local schools and The Lawrence Heights Community. Last year the garden had over 2,200 student visits and over 1,500 community volunteer hours. 15,000 pounds of produce went to volunteers, food banks, and a downtown market where revenue went to fund fulltime summer jobs for high school youth.
Over the last four years we have build up a community compost and waste management project that has allowed us to produce compost for our garden and community gardens. We handle all of our garden waste, and organic materials from local food banks. In we took a very important step in expanding this project.
Community Housing waste programs have no incentive for proper recycling
and composting. These issues paired with low income families living in a food desert had us and community volunteers wondering what to do. Our collective answer was an incentive based composting program; where the community can bring their pre-sorted compost or yard waste to the garden for garden dollars. These garden dollars then can be used at our weekly community farmer markets. This has not only diverted thousands of pounds of waste from the landfills but has created a reliable incentive based compost program that is rewarding, educational, and provides nutritional food in a respectable and fair way.
In the summer of 2015 we started collecting compost in exchange for market dollars. The community was overjoyed with being able to contribute to the garden, to feel more connected to their food, and to have access to beautiful organic produce. We soon realized the importance of this project at building and creating a strong community. We made meals at each market so that everyone could gather together share stories and leave with a full bag of veggies and a full belly. Soon the meals turned into potlucks, fresh baked bread and goodies, salads, rotis, arepas; the tables were full of veggies and culturally significant dishes. Community members started collecting compost from neighbours. The walk to the garden became a very important part of a lot of seniors’ daily exercise. More community members became invested in the garden; we had more volunteers, and have finally found a fair dignified way to share food in an environmentally positive and incentive based way.
We now need help expanding this project for next season!
We are looking for Farmers and farms who can donate to our weekly community compost markets to help us provide even more families with free vegetables. We can take donations on Mondays and Tuesdays and any donations to our organization are tax deductible we can write you tax receipts for the value of your donation. Donations will go directly to much needed community members, will assist in redirecting thousands of pounds of food waste from landfills and will help build a healthier and stronger community.
- 5 community markets
- 2000 dollars (valued) of exchanged produce with the program
- 100 sq feet of compost produced from collected waste
- 20 families involved
- 11 Community Compost Markets
- 7,700 dollars of exchanged produce
- 230 sq feet of finished compost produced
- 45 families involved
- 20 Community Compost Markets
- 15,000 dollars of exchanged produce
- 400 sq feet of finished compost
- 100 families involved
- Collecting Produce donations from local organic farms
- Supplying Families with kitchen Compost bins
- Building a Mobile Outdoor walk-in Cooler
The 2017 expanded Community Compost Project would create:
- Producing 400 sq feet of finished compost
- Weekly Tuesday Markets May-October
- Over 10,000 dollars worth of organic local produce traded for kitchen scraps
- Supplying every participant with a kitchen compost collecting bin*
- Building a Mobile Outdoor Walk-in Refrigerator *
- Providing 100 families with all their produce needs weekly
- Weekly Community meals made from produce grown from the garden
- Monthly workshops on food preservation and gardening
- Divert thousands of pounds of waste from landfills
- Create a stronger community and neighbourhood
- Offer an alternative or additional food source outside of food banks.
Kitchen Compost Bins
After two years of collecting compost and running the markets we have come to realize how important it is to provide community members with proper storage bins for their green waste. Most Participating families bring their vegetable scraps in plastic bags; which then need to be emptied and thrown away. Bags can rip, are messy, and are wasteful. Reusable kitchen compost bins would create a lot less waste, they would have composting information printed on them so that families would know exactly the specifics of what we collect. The containers allow us to standardize the value of the kitchen scraps to garden dollar ratios and would allow us to track our incoming waste weights. We would be looking for 200 high quality bins to use as the program grows and expands.
Mobile Walk-in Cooler
We want to build a mobile walk in cooler to give the program 24/7 onsite access to refrigeration. The retrofitted cargo trailer will also be used for picking up or bringing Pact grown vegetables to markets and food banks fully refrigerated; giving the produce a longer shelf life.
We will be using a CoolBot controller to allow us to hack an air conditioner to use as our cooling source. This saves thousands of dollars and allows us to easily maintain and repair the system without any expensive or proprietary parts. This project will also be used in the robot and tech classes as a classroom tool for product hacking, design, and sensors. Students will then be able to build more monitoring and alert systems on to the cooler itself.
We will also build around the trailer a Harvest specific work zone. This will include a shaded and waterproof work space, preparation tables,two double utility sinks, 4 hose outlets and an industrial spinner for micro greens and salads.
As we look to grow this program on site refrigeration and more walk in cooler space is essential this will allow us to start to store and distribute fresher produce and also take in and store donations from local organic farms. We are hoping to provide 80-100 families all of their fresh produce this season through our program.