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If you grow it, they will eat
Arviat group looks to healthier eating with grow box adoptions

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The call is going out to Arviat families who would like to eat healthier and share some quality time together.

NNSL photo/graphic

Sherilyn Sewoee, Jessica Reiniger, Joe Curley, and Ancilla Irkok, clockwise from left in the foreground, shovel soil for the Arviat Community Greenhouse Project as Gregoire De Muylder, Avis Mukyungnik and Corrina Tugak, in back from left, take a break on the land near Arviat this past month. - photo courtesy of Shelton Nipisar

The initiative would see families adopting a grow box through the local health committee's Arviat Community Greenhouse Project.

The project, which hired two university and six high school students, is funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The proper soil needed for starting the grow boxes on the right leaf was gathered on the land near Arviat by the students and their supervisors this past month.

Corrina Tugak of the Wellness Centre's media group said the students have almost completed the grow boxes.

She said the project is very exciting because it's all about helping with food security and providing a way for people to eat healthier.

"We had a poster made, and we're in the process of putting out a call to people in the community who may be interested in adopting a grow box," said Tugak.

"We'd like to see people adopt one so they can get into growing their own vegetables here in Arviat.

"We have lots of compost from old fruits, coffee grounds, tea bags and things like that, and then worms

will actually make their own soil to help the process.

"The worms need the soil from the land to start and then they'll start making their own, which is pretty cool."

Nunavut Arctic College's Jamie Bell said the fact the grow boxes are built almost entirely from recycled materials in the community is also pretty cool.

He said the only items the group actually had to buy were screws and nails.

"With the group being able to design and construct the grow boxes in this manner, the project is a great example of a community recycling the resources it has," said Bell.

"Once they have all their composting boxes completed, they're going to distribute those around the community along with the portable greenhouses. This allows us to test the project and see what vegetables will grow here.

"They'd like to look at building more of them in the future, so this project could actually end up becoming part of the solution for the food-security issues Nunavut has."

Bell said he looks at the project as a two-front process.

He said while the food is actually being grown locally, there's also a healthy-message component involved.

"Hopefully, as a result of this project, we'll see more people eating healthier and incorporating vegetables into their cooking," Bell said. "So, yes, it's part vegetable growing, but it's also part educational campaign."

He added the group already has some seedlings planted, so it's going to be quite interesting and exciting to see how the various plants do.

Committee chairperson Shirley Tagalik said worm farms will need to be started to handle all the soil requirements for what she hopes will be a continually growing project.

She said the project breaks down to building grow boxes from reclaimed lumber, composting and producing soil to fill the boxes, planting seedlings, and having people in the community take on the grow boxes to grow the seedlings to a harvestable state.

"Hopefully, they'll harvest them and feed the food to their families," said Tagalik. "The grow box will already be planted for an adoptive family, so they can grow the plants in them.

"The students will be coming to measure the growth of the plants, as well as answer any questions a family may have on overwatering, underwatering, fertilizing, or anything like that."

Tagalik said the first of the produce will hopefully be harvested sometime during the next few months.

She said the amount of produce actually produced will be monitored, as well as how much of it is fed to local families.

"At the end of the process, a kind of satisfaction survey on the whole growing experience will be done with the families who participated," said Tagalik. "We got started a little late in the season for a number of reasons, but right now we're looking to get out the boxes we have completed."

Tagalik said the group has decided to go with 14 or 15 grow boxes for the pilot project, with a grow station at each of the community's three schools, and will see how it goes from there.

She said a grow station will also be available to each community feeding program.

"Our community kitchen and the tourism project where they're learning how to cook for tourists will each have one, as will our breakfast program and early childhood programs," she said. "We've already had several people approach us to express their interest and have their names on the list for a grow box."

Tagalik see the group is hoping to have grow boxes delivered to some of those families by the end of this week.

"I hope, having produced the plants, the families will incorporate them into their meals."

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