Laurier Food Justice Garden Project promotes food landscaping and food justice on campus
The Laurier Food Justice Garden is a project that aims to transform campus landscaping from decorative planters to useful community-based landscaping.
The founder, Veda Hingert-McDonald, is a founding member of Climate Justice Laurier where they wanted to incorporate social and racial justice into the climate activism aspect of their group.
“Something that came to mind was advocating for more pollinator planting on campus … and if we’re going to try to change what’s being grown, why don’t we, as well as benefiting pollinators, benefit students and community by way of feeding people,” she said.
Hingert-McDonald was passionate about this project being visible to the Laurier community.
“I like the idea that rather than having to grow food “over there on a farm” where we don’t necessarily all see it, it can be something that people are really involved in and it can be something we’re all proud of,” she said.
She was inspired by the GSA report that concluded significant inequality in food security status for racialized students at Laurier and she wanted to benefit racialized and Indigenous groups with this project.
“The hope is that there will be more educational pieces brought in around Indigenous ways of growing and preserving [food],” she said.
The food from the garden is distributed through a free food distribution by LSPRIG at Martin Luther University College.
“I feel like in student populations, [food insecurity] is not really that talked about … I like the idea of contributing to a solution, in terms of literally distributing food to people who need it, and I like the idea that, hopefully, we can show that food landscaping can be really beautiful and doesn’t need to be hidden in somebody’s backyard,” she said.
Hingert-McDonald faced difficulties when the project launched because COVID-19 guidelines made it difficult to have volunteers on campus.
“I spent a few days just fully on my own shovelling… eventually we did get permission to have a small team of registered volunteers, which was really awesome.”
She appreciates volunteers so that they can also be involved in this cause.
“The feedback that I was getting from some of the volunteers was not only just learning how to grow food, but also that it felt really good to be able to have something to contribute to and that’s something that I think can empower people to go out and do other awesome stuff.”
Permission to use the main campus for the garden was also an obstacle but it was ultimately approved. Hingert-McDonald and her group wanted to have it near their founding symbol, the climate mural on campus.
The food garden will “build a culture at Laurier of caring about each other and caring about racial justice and food justice,” according to Hingert-McDonald.
It can be seen on the main campus where students will walk by it every day.
“I think it can be really beautiful, just like a decorative flower garden, but have a deeper purpose.”