Shirley Cochrane (left), Tina Nieuwenhuizen and Maye Cann tending to the HOPE garden in July 2018. (Marlene Martens photo)

Hope grows for Shuswap foodbanks thanks to modest volunteers

Secret garden donated 1,100 pounds of vegetables produced last year

A garden powered by goodwill and green thumbs has donated more than 1,000 pounds of fresh produce to the hungry.

HOPE garden, which stands for Helping Other People Eat, is the idea that Maye Cann pitched to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church two years ago. The idea took root and since then, Cann has watered, weeded, harvested and hauled the vegetables grown in the garden to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

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Janet Hanna, a long time friend of Cann, is acutely aware of her friend’s modesty but wanted to highlight her efforts all the same.

“It was Maye’s idea and she does a lot of the work and she doesn’t like blowing her own horn at all, but all the produce goes to second harvest and that is such a need of the community,” Hanna said.

The garden grows potatoes, carrots, beets, onions and other long lasting root vegetables that are household staples. Last year the garden netted 1,100 pounds of fresh produce and, after an expansion was made this year, volunteers are hoping to produce between 1,400 and 1,500 pounds of vegetables for donation.

Ena van Zoeren, the minister at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, notes the garden is helping to solve a challenge commonly faced by food banks.

“They get a lot of things like canned goods and things like Kraft Dinner, baked beans,” said Zoeren. “They don’t often accept fresh produce but if you grow your own and bring it in they will gladly take it.”

The location of the HOPE garden remains a secret as St. Andrew’s has been victim to several burglaries. A less well-kept secret, however, is another waste food redistribution organization, The North Okanagan Valley Gleaners Society, where she volunteers every Thursday.

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Zoeren also knows of Maye Cann’s modesty, acknowledging that Cann did plant the seed for the project but the garden has become something bigger for the church.

“It’s a big part of who St. Andrew’s is to reach out into the community, and we really can’t think of a much better way to do this than by feeding the people that are hungry,” Zoeren said.

Although the HOPE garden is working to provide more people with fresh produce, Zoeren would like to see the entire town work for the same cause.

“If you’re interested in this ministry and you have your own garden, why not plant an extra row of carrots or an extra row of potatoes for the food bank,” she said.


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