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New NACCA community garden fighting food insecurity in Newmarket

'There was a real need in our community,' Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association chair says of new project

The Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association (NACCA)  is fighting food insecurity with a new community garden. 

The organization opened the garden last night at the Mulock Community Gardens with a gathering and ceremony. The project will provide fresh produce to the local Black community and to the community fridge located outside the Newmarket Public Library.

NACCA said it wants to ensure there is more access to healthy food culturally appropriate for those of the Black and African diaspora locally.

“During the pandemic, we realized there was a real need in our community,” NACCA chair Jerisha Grant-Hall said, adding they initiated programs to help address food issues. “We realized, ’Oh my goodness, we can’t just stop there. We need to actually make this sustainable.’”

The project is located at the gardens run by the York Region Food Network. MAZON Canada, a Jewish charity that supports food initiatives, is also backing the project with a grant. The garden will be dedicated to “the Black ancestral grandmothers who braided seeds in their hair before being forced across the Atlantic believing against all the odds in a future of sovereignty on land.”

MAZON executive director Izzy Waxman said it is a meaningful project of which to be a part.

“We have known the pain of being forcibly displaced,” Waxman said. “Bringing young people in and making sure all this cultural knowledge is retained and passed on, it’s something that’s so important to our community. It’s such an honour to be able to stand here as allies in solidarity.” 

NACCA said food insecurity is an issue for the community, and that the overriding factor for many Black Canadians in determining their food status is being racialized. It cited a report from the Food Insecurity Policy Research and Foodshare that found Black communities are 3.5 times more likely to experience food insecurity compared to white Canadians.

The new gardens are a larger part of NACCA’s food security program and will be one of three locations the organization uses to provide outdoor space to teach about growing healthy food. They also plan to have gardens in the London Road community garden and in the downtown area by NACCA’s headquarters on Eagle Street.

The organization’s garden lead, Paul Lubberts, said he is excited about starting up gardens at the NACCA site. 

“Beautiful stuff happening there. It’s going to be the most beautiful thing in downtown Newmarket,” Lubberts said. 

The event featured an Indigenous blessing from Kim Wheatley, an Anishinaabe Ojibway Grandmother from Shawanaga First Nation. 

Grant-Hall said opening a garden like this helps connect the Indigenous and Black communities.

“It’s the connection people can make with the Earth, with each other,” she said. “Colonialism is the disruption for so many Indigenous and Black communities. It separated us, it has divided us. What this does is it brings us back to the Earth.”