Local food programs reap rewards of historic Royal Roads garden

Emily Mulroney, a fourth-year student at Royal Roads, and university president Philip Steenkamp hold squash harvested from the Giving Garden. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)Emily Mulroney, a fourth-year student at Royal Roads, and university president Philip Steenkamp hold squash harvested from the Giving Garden. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)
Jesse Wallis of Upbeet Garden said the project helped expand the offerings in their donated food boxes. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)Jesse Wallis of Upbeet Garden said the project helped expand the offerings in their donated food boxes. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Royal Roads University is repurposing one of the historic Hatley Castle gardens to donate food to local food box programs.

The Dunsmuir’s old walled kitchen garden has now been dubbed the “Giving Garden” with the university partnering with local non-profits like Iye Creative and Upbeet Garden, which pack fresh food boxes for families in need. The garden produces 120 pounds of food weekly and a thousand pounds of food are set to have been harvested by the end of the fall, with plans to expand the garden’s offering in the future.

“At (our) kind of scale, it was so helpful for us to just build a box that was even more nutritionally rich,” said Jesse Wallis, a volunteer with Upbeet Garden. The food box collective harvested tomatoes, eggplant and collard greens from the Giving Garden, which helped them better serve their patrons.

“A big push for us this year was very small, culturally relevant foods because it’s one thing to make the food accessible but a lot of Black, Indigenous and people of colour don’t have access to food that is culturally relevant to their culture.”

As well as community groups, students helped in the development of the garden. Emily Mulroney, a fourth year in the bachelor of business in sustainability and innovation program at Royal Roads, was part of a class of students who developed business ideas for the garden when it was first getting started and volunteered with the harvesting portion when her class was done.

“I have a personal passion for growing – that’s something that I do in my free time and I just feel like it’s empowering. I think it gives people the tools to survive, in a way.”

Mulroney said projects like these are important to help address food insecurity while also building community.

The garden is part of Royal Roads’ plan to restore and reimagine the gardens in and around Hatley Castle.

ALSO READ: B.C. food-aid programs seeing spike in hungry students amid high inflation, grocery costs


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