A garden is in the works for clients of the food bank in Pugwash.

The volunteers that run the Pugwash Open Hamper Food Bank work hard to serve the 46 families who regularly depend on the food bank to supplement their nutritional needs. Clients reside in Pugwash and surrounding areas including Malagash, Wallace, Wentworth and Port Howe postal areas. Food is made available every Wednesday from the Open Hamper, which is in the basement of the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital.

When Dot Pal started volunteering with the food bank, she quickly realized there were some challenges that needed to be addressed to improve the diversity and quality of the food offered. A truck from Feed Nova Scotia in Bedford makes deliveries every second Tuesday. By the time fresh produce reaches the clients in the Pugwash area, it has already reached its best before date, or is close to it. This means that the following Wednesday there is very little to choose from. Freezer space is limited, increasing the inability to broaden the shelf life of food donations.

As a retired educator, Pal is used to problem solving. As a member of the food bank and also the Pugwash and Area Community Health Board, she is passionate about health and wellness and looked for solutions.

In the summer of 2016, Pal arranged with the coordinator of the Cyrus Eaton Elementary School Garden, Jennifer Houghtaling, to help with the care of the garden over the summer and harvest the produce for the food bank clients. On paper this was an easy solution, but due to the size of the raised vegetable garden and the small variety of vegetables, the end result did not fill the demand.

Not to be deterred, Pal took the next logical step. The idea of a Pugwash Open Hamper Food Bank Garden was born and is moving forward with many sectors of the community in full support.

A committee comprised of two members from the food bank organization, one member from the Pugwash and Area Health Board, and one member from Communities in Bloom, has formed to organize the preparation and maintenance of the garden plot, the planting, and harvesting of the vegetables. The Pugwash Village Commission has made a piece of village property available for this project, on Prince Albert St. behind O’Brien’s Pharmacy. Mike Langille has offered to till the land and Joe Sarson is supporting the project with soil and compost.

The Pugwash Volunteer Fire Department has offered to keep an on-site 250 water gallon tank full for watering. Funding has been secured from Communities in Bloom and private donations, with a request to the Municipality of Cumberland County pending. Clients with the food bank, working beside volunteers from the food bank organization, Pugwash and Area Community Health Board and the communities the food bank serves will ensure fresh vegetables arrive at the food bank every Wednesday. Everything is in place to ensure the success of this effort.

“I felt clients could become involved if we had the garden within the village limits,” said Pal. This gives families the opportunity to help with this worthwhile project, experience growing their own food and learning first-and the value of eating fresh food, moving away from processed food. Client families have been surveyed to gauge their response to the idea, their interest in helping and their suggestions for the types of vegetables to plant.