In honour of World Food Day 2021, coinciding with the UN Year of Fruits and Vegetables, we are sharing a student perspective on our Garden’s food security initiative. Coined the “Harvest Hamper Program” in 2020, the initiative represents a collaborative effort among Garden Staff, volunteers and community partners to provide fresh produce to the UBC community.
Delanie Austin is a fourth-year student studying First Nations Indigenous studies and environmental and health sciences at UBC. She reflects on her experiences coordinating the Harvest Hamper Program during the 2021 season.
Blueberries, blackberries, broad beans, basil; are just some of the more than 100 different species of fruits and vegetables harvested from UBC Botanical Garden’s food garden during the summer and fall of 2021. Occasionally helping with these harvests, while coordinating efforts to process and distribute the produce has been a highlight of my time at the Garden and my university experience more broadly.
This year, through the collective work of Garden horticulturists, Friends of the Garden and student volunteers, we were able to harvest and distribute more than 1,200 pounds (545 kg) of fresh fruits and vegetables to the UBC community. While this yield stands out for a food garden originally designed only for display purposes, I have recently come to understand the importance of noting that this value doesn’t account for the thousands of calories and many diverse nutrients that the produce also provides. Such nutrient provisioning seems particularly poignant to mention during a year where COVID-19 and heatwaves across BC have resulted in increasing barriers to accessing fresh foods.
Developing a deepened understanding of the specific nutritional impact of a variety of fruits and vegetables is just a snapshot of the growth I have been fortunate enough to experience through my involvement with the Harvest Hamper Program. Working alongside people and pollinators in an urban agriculture environment, I was able to apply course acquired knowledge of concepts in ecology and biostatistics, while also developing a more holistic understanding and appreciation for the interconnectedness of local food systems. The work has transformed my understanding of and connection to food systems, literacy and security, while also inspiring me to continue engaging in related conversations and initiatives.
This fall, I continue working at the Garden to support nature-based education and volunteer engagement. I am also volunteering as the Senior Sprouts Box Coordinator at UBC Sprouts to continue increasing the accessibility of local, fresh produce within the UBC community. My motivation to be involved in this work is further affirmed by the UN World Food Day and Year of Fruits and Vegetables’ mission to raise awareness of food and nutrition-related challenges and the critical role of agriculture in building a more just and sustainable future.
Submitted by Delanie Austin a fourth-year student studying First Nations Indigenous studies and environmental and health sciences at UBC