Ontario declares community gardens essential source of fresh food

The province of Ontario has re-opened community gardens and declared them an “essential source of fresh food” for people, including those who are facing food insecurity, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A media release issued Saturday morning said gardens will have to follow recommendations and instructions laid out by local medical officers of health, which includes physical distancing and regular disinfecting of commonly used equipment and surfaces.

It’s an amendment to an emergency order issued on March 30th, which lumped community gardens in with other “recreational amenities” that were being closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Moe Garahan, the co-chair of Sustain Ontario’s Community Growing Network and the executive director of Just Food said she’s pleased with the decision.

“It’s wonderful to see a community voice getting recognized and government pivoting towards that understanding that we all have in the food security sector. That it’s important that we be building community resilience right now through programs like community gardens.”

In a push to get the government to re-open community gardens, Sustain Ontario published an open letter, came up with list of recommended COVID-19 safety guidelines, and started a petition that garnered more than 7,200 signatures, said Garahan.

“There was literally tens of thousands of emails and letters that were written to provincial members of parliament.”

Moving forward, community gardens will need to enforce public health guidelines as they prepare for the upcoming season. 

“It’ll be a lot,” said Garahan. “Here in Ottawa, we have close to 100 community gardens so it’s a quick turnaround that we will need to work with all these community garden coordinators and gardeners to get things in place.”

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