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CCFN is an active collaboration of community members, agencies, service providers and organizations working together to enhance the health and well-being in our neighborhoods by supporting and coordinating local food security initiatives and improving access to community health, social services and community-based programs. Join us. It's free, fun and makes a difference! Email the coordinator and receive our monthly e-newsletter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two Block Diet

At the TLCC Food Security Network meeting in September, Kate Sutherland and Catherine Shapiro came to tell us about the "Two Block Diet", a homegrown success story in Mount Pleasant.

It started with a block party and a conversation about growing food. Kate was talking to one of her neighbours about her lack of garden space and the neighbour offered part of her yard for Kate to grow in. From there the idea of sharing yards to plant gardens emerged and grew into the Two Block Diet.

Their first meeting was held in November of 2008 where about 13 people gathered to discuss how they could support each other to grow more food, reduce their CO2 footprint, teach their children about where food comes from, and build community. The eldest was in her 90’s and the youngest a baby; Catherine, a master gardener, was the most experienced grower and there were others, like Kate, who had never successfully started their own seeds indoors. Together the group shared information and “played”, envisioning what a Two Block Diet would look like.

Through the darker colder months they planned gardens and bought seeds together. Some had yards and others just had balconies; some owned and some rented. During their meetings, often held in someone's living room, they’d plant seeds, just like the old quilting bees! These seeds would be germinated in warm, darker places and then, once they'd sprouted, they were placed in one of the neighbour’s basements under two grow lights the group had bought together. From the city they ordered compost, which they distributed during one of their monthly work parties. At another work party they built a greenhouse, which one of them had bought second hand. As another way to reduce CO2, they strung a clothesline for one of the neighbours in the group, a free and green way to dry clothes. Surprisingly the most onerous task for the group didn’t entail a wheelbarrow, or a hammer, but rather a calendar in order to discuss and set a standard time to meet in their busy lives.

In the spring, the power of many hands was extended to a plant sale so they could raise money to buy bees. (Just in case you are thinking of doing a neighbourhood fundraiser, they found that basil plants were their very best seller.) Raspberry canes were also bought and planted, and in one of the yards they established a collective potato patch.

The neighbours grew for themselves, shared and traded and ate two-block-meals together. The kids foraged and learned how food their food was grown, and everyone learned about community. Two neighbours who had lived just doors away from each other for over 12 years, finally visited each other’s homes. When one of the group fell ill and was in the hospital, they all pitched in to water her garden. That's community.

To start a Two Block Diet group in your community, find at least one other neighbour to help you spread the word. Post some flyers and invite your neighbours to a meeting. Talk about everything your Two Block Diet can be and then start small. If the group doesn't have a master gardener, have a look Robin Wheeler's book, Gardening for the Faint of Heart. Kate and Catherine attribute the group’s success to staying focussed on one thing: to grow more food. With that uncomplicated agenda they were able to grow a great deal more.

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