PACT Youth Crime Reduction Program

PACT Youth Crime Reduction Program

September 16, 2009 09:37 ET

Students tackle food shortage with urban food gardens at schools

PACT Transforms Toronto Schools with Green Jobs, Agriculture, Reforestation and Off-Grid Greenhouses - “Grow to Learn” converts bare schoolyard grass into food gardens.

Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, Education Editor, Environment Editor, Lifestyle Editor TORONTO/ONTARIO/PRESS RELEASE--(Marketwire - Sept. 16, 2009) - The award-winning PACT Youth Crime Reduction Program, a business-led charity has created a holistic set of life-skills and environmental projects for high schools in Toronto to create an environmental culture, ensure healthy communities, and further the goal of prevention through engaging youth.

An Urban Food Initiative for Toronto
PACT, which works to build peace in urban communities in partnership with the courts and schools, is officially launching "Grow to Learn" an urban food initiative that helps create an environmental ethos at schools across the city while ensuring a sustainable source of produce to food banks across the city. Planning began in late 2008 and starting in June 2009, students, teachers, volunteers and PACT leaders had converted bare grass into veritable food gardens at two schools - Sir Sandford Fleming in Lawrence Heights and West Humber Collegiate Institute in Rexdale.

The outdoor classrooms have vegetable beds, fruit orchards, naturalized perimeters of native shrubs, perennials and berry bushes. The organic produce grown in the two schools is already being donated weekly to local food banks in their surrounding neighbourhoods and used in the schools' PACT cooking programs.

The PACT Greenhouse Initiative, works with "Grow to Learn" to promote food security, teach relevant skills to at-risk youth, champion a sustainable food production system and facilitate innovative design. This initiative will design, build and operate portable, off-the-grid greenhouses capable of providing fresh, organic produce to local food banks year-round. With the prototype underway, PACT hopes to have state-of-the-art greenhouses supporting all Grow to Learn schools throughout the GTA serving as vibrant beacons promoting green design to the youth at each school.

* The first phase, presently underway, involves the research and design of a cutting edge prototype greenhouse.
* The second phase will engage, empower and educate at-risk youth as they participate in the team-based greenhouse construction program. A focus on alternative energy and green building techniques will open up the options for students to pursue a higher green/environmental education and to enter the growing "green collar" job market.
* In the third phase students and neighbourhood volunteers will be trained in greenhouse operation and the agricultural method of aquaponics. Aquaponics, the use of a closed ecosystem to grow both plants and fish, is a sustainable food production system that is ideal for urban centers.
* The final phase involves the collaboration with local food banks to ensure that the nutritious food donated makes it to the tables of those in need.

PACT also has a "Build" program that ensures handy youth have an opportunity to be employed building garden sheds and fencing for each garden.

"Food banks face an abysmal situation right now," said PACT Urban Agriculture Director, Eric Payseur. "With an increase of 30 per cent in food bank use the need for fresh produce and healthy options is greater than ever. And the solution is simple. Studies show that every $100 spent on vegetable gardening yields $1,000 to $1,700 worth of produce." [i]

Grow to Learn is designed to ensure healthy communities and provide a holistic community gathering place that will provide safe, on-site and effective community service options for youth.

"The best prevention is getting to youth early to ignite a passion and lead to higher education or employment opportunities," said David Lockett, PACT co-founder and volunteer president. "Youth need to be channeled into skills-based community programs and given a chance to find that stepping-stone path to their futures."

Expansion Plans
PACT is now in the exploratory process of expanding from the existing two schools, to a possible 12 by 2010. PACT has created a model for designing and installing schoolyard gardens that can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world, provided certain prerequisites are met.

The plan is to eventually grow the program to include many schools across the city and engage youth to promote food security and urban peace.

"The North York Harvest Food Bank strongly supports PACT's Grow to Learn urban food initiative," said Bhavana Kapal, Food Drive Coordinator. "This program teaches at-risk youth about working through adversity, celebrating the harvest and sharing the abundance of nature with the community."

The View From the School Principals
"PACT is making an invaluable contribution to our school community through its after-school Grow to Learn program," said Arnold Witt, Principal, Sir Sandford Fleming Academy. "The space students have created is a living, outdoor classroom of immense educational value because it presents the opportunity for teachers to apply hands-on, experiential learning for virtually all subjects."

"Our school works with PACT to make a significant difference in the local community," said Naeem Siddiq, Principal, West Humber Collegiate Institute. "PACT helps channel youth into skills programs and builds capacity in our community while helping out the city's under-fed population."

The PACT Cooking School
Using produce from the gardens, PACT provides a skills-based learning environment with a strong community-service aspect. At the end of each six-week course the youth plan and cook a meal for the school community. The skills learned include teamwork, nutrition, time management, affordable shopping, cooking for one and cleanliness/food safety.

The PACT Youth Film Program
PACT provides a mobile film school for the high schools once a week during the after school timeframe. The program is headed up by film production professionals, and supported with volunteering teacher assistants from local universities.

About PACT
PACT (PARTICIPATION ACKNOWLEDGEMENT COMMITMENT TRANSFORMATION) is a registered Canadian charity that empowers, supports and encourages at risk youth to reach their full potential in life. PACT builds peace in the GTA community with almost no government funding and has helped nearly 4,000 at-risk youth in partnership with the courts and schools.

http://www.pactprogram.ca

[i] Source, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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/For further information: http://www.pactprogram.ca/ IN: EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT, FOOD, JUSTICE, SOCIAL

Contact Information

  • terance brouse, Communications, PACT Youth Crime Reduction Program
    Primary Phone: 647-274-5249
    E-mail: tebrouse@rogers.com