Edmonton's Better Business Bureau has launched a new initiative aimed at helping local organizations combat food insecurity.
The Diversity, Inclusion and You (DI&Y) Farm started as a small garden outside the BBB, but quickly turned into a way to give back to the community. Produce from the garden will now be donated to local organizations including the Africa Centre and the C5 collective.
"We started by utilizing our external space to just grow food and hopefully support our immediate community," said Seanna Lawrence, chief diversity officer at the BBB.
"There was no fences or barriers to the garden and it was really just open to all.
Now, accredited businesses can help sponsor the program to support organizations around the city that serve diverse communities. It is the first of the business-oriented non-profit's diversity initiatives.
"We thought how could we use this program for more good in a more formal and structured way to support, again, our community?" Lawrence said.
The initiative was motivated by the increase in food insecurity across Canada this past year. According to research from the Community Food Centres Canada, food insecurity increased by 39 per cent at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawrence said the issue disproportionately impacts BIPOC communities, northern communities and Indigenous communities, which is why the program is part of their diversity and inclusion initiatives.
"The point is to support people and organizations who've been doing this work for a very long time, and many times very unsupported," said Lawrence.
The garden is home to many root vegetables like carrots, beets and onions because they keep longer, said Lawrence. They also grow squash beans, zucchini and peas. The farm also features indoor aeroponics towers that grow a variety of herbs and lettuces.
Lawrence said the BBB has plans to partner with more organizations in the future, but stressed the importance of supporting local organizations, rather than assuming what would be best for them.
"What's really important for us is to be very intentional with this very important work...we really want to continue our learning and education so we can really form partnerships of substance."