Nearly 40 community groups, businesses and government agencies came together to discuss healthy living. (lindsay charlton)

Lindsay Charlton
Environment Reporter

Humber’s Centre for Urban Ecology opened its doors for community members and groups to discuss the link between food production and healthy child and youth
development.

The Centre of Innovation in Health and Wellness hosted a networking event last week, Healthy Growing, Healthy Living in Rexdale, bringing together representatives from 38 different community groups, businesses and government agencies.

Students and community members also took part in an interactive workshop that explored the intersection between food systems and healthy child and youth development.

“This is really what the Centre of Innovation is focused on, to bring in these different elements, these different parties and stakeholders together to address real world problems,” said Matias Golob, director of the Centre of Social Innovation, Health and Wellness.,

Golob said the centre provides students with experiential and real-life opportunities to become the change-makers who advocate for issues such as child health and food production.

Community and collaboration were major focuses as a necessity to implement new healthy food systems and make real changes.

“You are part of what I would call a Humber movement, which is really to be embedded and to be working with the communities that we live in and that we work in,” Laurie Rancourt, Humber’s Academic vice-president, told the workshop.

Participants worked as a group and discussed the many challenges and issues surrounding food that affect the development of youth in the Rexdale area.

The groups developed creative ideas and suggestions to achieve healthier food systems for children, such as green roofs and gardens, space in schools for healthy eating and education on gardening and food production.

Toronto Ward 1 (Etobicoke North) Councillor Vincent Crisanti said the city plans to invest more than $1.7 million in continuing to support nutrition programs across the city.

“In Rexdale, we have so many wonderful opportunities. One of the things we do at the City of Toronto is we do believe in nutrition, we do believe in making sure nobody goes unfed,” he said.

The Humber Arboretum also took the opportunity to share its plans for healthy living in Rexdale with the community by introducing participants to its Food Learning Garden.

Last spring, the Arboretum, the Centre for Innovation in Health and Wellness, School of Applied Technology, TD

Friends of the Environment and the community collaborated to create Humber’s Food Learning Garden.

“The goal and vision of this initiative are to really create a learning space about local food and food security for our community members,” Arboretum director Alexandra Link said.

“Our idea was to create this learning garden space so our community could come and learn about how to build and create their own local food gardens at home or at school or at their community centre,” she said.

The Food Learning Garden will start planting fruits, vegetables and herbs this spring, and become a space for school children, students and community members to experience, learn, feel and taste what it is to grow a local garden.

There are also plans to develop new programming for children and the community around the education of starting a garden, Link said.

She said the Learning Garden will also be available for Humber faculty and students to integrate urban food security and local food growth into their lessons, such as Culinary Management, Early Childhood Education and more.

The produce from the garden will also be used by those working in the student-run Humber Room Restaurant.