About Our Project
WHAT WE DO
Our work, which operates through Seeds of Diversity, is focused on creating opportunities for youth to connect with food systems, learn sustainable practices, and explore careers in food and agriculture. This includes creating and maintaining physical resources like gardens on school grounds, and supporting youth inquiry into the food and sustainability related topics that interest them. Our in-person programs have built 35 food gardens at schools across Waterloo Region and provide hands-on opportunities to learn about horticulture, agriculture, and local food industries. Our online youth volunteer program has connected with youth across Ontario in various projects to support them in learning about food systems and communicating about food and sustainability with their peers.
We began in 2017 with our garden grant program that supports schools in building gardens, and building a network of schools, educators, and communities interested in supporting garden-based learning. We’re still supporting school garden builds across Waterloo Region, but as our organization and community has grown, so have our goals!
Throughout 2020 and 2021, while a lot of in-person programming was suspended, we focused on finding ways to support youth in connecting with food systems and learning about sustainability in a virtual format. This led to the development of our Youth Portal, and to the creation of our online youth volunteer programs.
Rather than delivering top-down, structured content, our online programs have focused on finding the topics that interest and motivate young people, and supporting them in developing their inquiry skills, food systems knowledge, and communication and career skills. We provide year-round opportunities for high school students to gain their volunteer hours and take on meaningful roles through out Youth in Food Systems project.
Thanks to our amazing volunteers, we now run our youth-led blog, featuring articles written by high school students from across Ontario about food and environmental-related topics, host social media takeovers, and, in summer 2021, planned and carried out our Youth Food Market. We are currently working on the release of our Careers in Food Systems Interview Series and the development of a Youth Advisory Council.
2021 - Oh, The Places We’ll Grow!
This year has been our busiest yet. With continued uncertainty surrounding school food gardens and in-person programming, we made a big leap into engaging youth through our hybrid volunteer program. This program, called Youth in Food Systems (YIFS), provides opportunities for young people across Ontario to gain knowledge, skills, and experience in food systems. This year, we directly engaged 110 high school students in our YIFS program, who collectively logged over 600 volunteer hours.
That doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten our roots, though! 2021 saw 10 new gardens built at schools across Waterloo Region, bringing us up to 35 school food gardens, reaching over 20,000 students each year. With any luck, we’ll be back to consistent in-school learning soon, meaning more young people spending more time engaged with food and sustainable practices.
As always, what we do is only possible because of the support and partnerships of recent years. This year, in particular, we gained so much from our community partnerships and newly forged relationships with our youth volunteers. We also want to acknowledge the support provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canada Summer Jobs program, without which we could not have accomplished all we did.
Moving forward, we aim to continue our trek towards empowering young people to learn, inquire, and communicate about food systems, and how they can participate in the creation of a sustainable food future. Let’s go, 2022!
2020 - a pivotal time to grow!
This year has brought us many unexpected events, endeavours, and opportunities. After an uncertain start to the season, we have been able to move forward with several exciting new projects, including a shift to online resources for youth. We are delighted to announce the launch of our new online Youth Portal! Here, students are able to find videos, activities, and resources related to topics such as indoor growing, climate change, food & nutrition, pollinators and lots of fun arts & crafts. This portal was created to support students’ learning while the education system continues to evolve. Our resources for this portal will continue to evolve and grow as we learn along with you. We are grateful for the support of the Canada Summer Jobs program for allowing us to have a team of talented youth to help make this happen!
We anticipate a grand total of 15 garden builds this fall, bringing our total up to 40! This was our target goal for the 2020-2021 school year, and we would not have made it without the support of our community and our sponsors. Thank you to Seeds of Diversity and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, in particular, for their ongoing support.
Much of what we do would not be possible without our wonderful and generous community. We have fostered many new relationships over the past year, and aim to continue expanding our horizons as we further develop as a strong and collaborative community organization. Your support helps ensure that our project continues to provide outdoor education resources and opportunities to an ever-growing number of students and schools.
2019 and into the future – Growing up, and up, and up!
With the success of obtaining the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, we can grow our project to new heights! This spring, we finished a total of 13 gardens – propelling us forward towards our grand total of 40 gardens by 2021. In addition, we aim to continue our annual Teachers Workshop and Conference, and (perhaps our most ambitious and highly-anticipated objective) support a newly developed youth-led farmer’s market.
Follow us on social media for updates, important grant opportunities, and you can always support us here to ensure our project remains sustainable and ever-present in the community. We thank you for all your support and interest in making sure students have access to grow fresh, healthy food.
2018 – Planting and Cultivating: Finding Community Partnerships
The effort put in this year sowed many rewards. We hosted our first annual Teachers Workshop and Conference to promote and support school food gardens. Additionally, we partnered with Your Neighbourhood Credit Union for a garden at Silverheights P.S in Hespeler. In total, we were able to build 5 more gardens with the help of 48 more volunteers.
The goal of this year was to find strong connections in our community. Each build was possible through volunteer construction, student participation, and local business involvement. Our garden frames were constructed by secondary school students, we sourced our supplies from local businesses, and we collaborated with other non-profit organizations. There is always a place for our volunteers and community members to contribute!
2017 – Healthy Communities, Healthy Kids
Thanks to the incredible partnerships between Seeds of Diversity and the Waterloo Region Community Garden Network, we were able to build 7 new school gardens in the Waterloo Region. We are grateful to have received the Healthy Kids Community Challenge (Region of Waterloo) grant to fund this incredible endeavour. Approximately 67 volunteers participated in the builds, which included supporting school staff, parents, students, and members of the community. In addition, our friends at Grand River Food Forestry built a pollinator and edible food fedge on the perimeter of our Empire P.S. garden.
This inaugural phase of the WR School Food Gardens project set the stage for what we could accomplish as a community, and we plan to continue to grow, grow, grow!