Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
Danielle Labonte, MAN, RD
Registered Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist
Finally, winter is over and people can get to their gardens. Growing your own garden is a great way to have access to a variety of fresh and delicious vegetables and fruit. In fact, research has shown that gardeners eat more vegetables and fruit than non-gardeners.
While some people are happy to learn from internet resources, many learn best by doing. One solution is to participate in community gardening. Community gardens are plots of land or raised beds that are available at a low cost for people to grow their own vegetables, fruit and herbs. They can be large or small, on the ground or on rooftops, in plots or in planters, or a mix of all of these things. Some are communal, where everyone shares the work and the harvest. Some have separate, individual plots for each gardener, and some are a combination of these two styles, encouraging gardeners to join together to grow some of the crops communally. This is a great way for new gardeners to learn knowledge and skills from those with experience.
In addition to providing fresh food, belonging to a community garden can increase social connectedness and contribute to our health through physical activity out in the fresh air, provide a chance to meet new people, and can help us feel more connected to our communities.
If you are interested in starting your own garden or trying something new, check out the Food Inventory at foodcoreLGL.ca for places where you can buy plants, seeds or participate in seed exchanges, and find a local community garden near you. For more information, connect with the Health Unit at healthunit.org, find us on Facebook and on Twitter, or call 1-800-660-5853.
Buying local food this summer
During the summer months, fresh produce becomes more available to us. While this is a great time to garden, some people prefer to buy their vegetables and fruit. To get the best out of Ontario’s growing season choose foods with the Foodland Ontario logo at the grocery store. Buying your food at a farmers’ market or farm gate is another way to support our local farms.
When you buy food that is grown locally, it is very fresh and tasty. This is because it is in-season and has not been transported over a large distance. Buying local helps support your community, creates jobs, and supports economic growth in Ontario. Another benefit is that when you get to know the people who grow and produce your food you may feel more connected to what you eat.
Whether you grow your own or buy from a grocery store, farmers’ market, or farm gate, there is no question that vegetables and fruit are an important part of a healthy eating pattern. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit to get a variety of colors, textures, tastes, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Keep in mind the darker the colour, the higher the vegetable or fruit is in nutrients.
Visit healthunit.org for food safety information for garden projects as well as choosing, cleaning, storing and preparing vegetables. You can also find us on Facebook and on Twitter, or call us at 1-800-660-5853.