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Laurier researcher’s Project SOIL examines food production at schools, hospitals and other institutions
Jul 24/14| For Immediate Release
Philip Mount, Postdoctoral Fellow
Kevin Crowley, Acting Assistant Vice-President
WATERLOO – Hospitals, schools and other public institutions already provide communities with vital services. But what if they could double as food producers?
That’s the idea behind Project SOIL, a study being led by Laurier researcher Philip Mount that explores the potential for on-site food production at public institutions. Launched in September 2013, Project SOIL — Shared Opportunities on Institutional Lands — is investigating the feasibility of using institutional land to grow organic produce by examining on-site food production systems already in place at Ontario institutions and supporting five pilot projects around the province.
“The project grew out of three ideas,” said Mount. “Public institutions in Ontario are being encouraged to provide more local food; many of these institutions have land that could grow that food; and many new and young farmers have the skills to produce this food, but no access to land.”
In addition to Mount, the Project SOIL research team includes Irena Knezevic from Laurier’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and researchers from national non-profit My Sustainable Canada and from the University of Guelph, Carleton University and Lakehead University. The team is using the five pilot projects to study the economic and institutional viability of on-site food production models, as well as more specific benefits of the practice.
At KW Habilitation’s micro-farm in Kitchener-Waterloo and the GreenWerks Garden at the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital in Thunder Bay, the team will study what skills people can gain from participating in on-site food production, as well as the impact of channeling fresh local produce into institutional food supply. Meanwhile, at health facilities Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Ont. — located near the Quebec-Ontario border — and Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, the team will study therapeutic benefits. The fifth pilot project is taking place at the Food School Farm, a participatory agro-ecological program at Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus.
The next step of the project will apply these lessons to a select group of institutions, with in-depth feasibility studies that will identify the resources required for a successful food production project.
“The potential of on-site food production is largely untapped,” said Mount. “But one early lesson from these pilot projects would apply equally on the grounds of a daycare, seniors’ residence or hospice: the simple act of growing food for others has transformative power.”
For more information on Project SOIL, visit: http://projectsoil.ca/.