AquaGrow Farms Update: An Interview with Colin Cotton
We sat down with Colin, Aquaponics Farm Supervisor, to find out how things are going at AquaGrow Farms!
1. Overall, how are things going at AquaGrow Farms so far?
Everything has been great! We’ve had such an awesome response from our volunteers and visitors to the food bank about the project. It seems to really drive home the need for fresh produce in Mississauga and the creative solutions required to meet that need.
In terms of the day-to-day farm operations, we’ve stocked both our tanks with fish and have begun harvesting our greens. The lettuce is growing like crazy! Some of the leaves are over 5 inches across and those ones aren’t even ready to be harvested yet. Visitors have commented that our raft tanks now look like forests. It may be cold and grey outside at the moment, but it’s great to know that we’re filling up bowls of greens across the city!
The fish have (for the most part) been behaving themselves and eating very well. We expect to harvest the first batch towards the end of March.
2. What have you learned since we started this project?
It’s amazing what the farm can teach you every day. As soon as you’re comfortable with how everything works, a new situation is brought up and leads to many more learning opportunities. It’s always changing, but that’s what keeps things fun.
We’ve learned a lot about fish behaviour. For example, they actually prefer to be more tightly packed in a tank because that reduces territorial behaviour. Now that we’re fully established, our next batches of fish will be doubled to minimize fighting and the occasional splashing that falsely sets off our flood alarm at early hours in the morning.
With the leafy greens, we’ve learned a lot about how they grow. Light, water, and nutrients are the basic necessities for growth, but each of those components can go super in depth. We’re constantly looking at each of these factors to see what will keep the greens happiest, healthiest, and growing as big as possible! And we’ve learned a little about lettuce identification as there was a seed that grew into a different kind of lettuce than the rest – we suspect it’s Romaine!
3. What are you personally most excited about for AquaGrow Farms?
I’m always excited about harvesting our greens. It’s really rewarding to see the results and especially share that experience with volunteers and visitors. I feel like AquaGrow Farms volunteers also get the satisfaction of knowing that they’re making a positive impact on their community first-hand. I pass along the feedback to them and they’re always happy to hear that the produce is being well received by families using our food banks.
I’ve also come to really enjoy teaching people about food security and the process of aquaponics so I look forward to the monthly AquaGrow Farm tours. It’s a lot of fun to engage people and show them how aquaponics works in a hands-on way and they’re always surprised that this is something they can do in their own homes. It’s such an easy and effective form of agriculture. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities and maybe in the future it’ll be the norm for everyone to sustainably grow food in their own homes for a healthier and less hungry Mississauga.
4. How can people get involved?
Just as previously mentioned, people can volunteer either as an AquaGrow Farms assistant or choose from the many other opportunities available on our website.
If you’d like a tour, please contact me and I’d be happy to show you around our farm.
You can also make the most of your food drive donations and choose healthy, nutritious items to donate. Fruit, vegetables, grains, and proteins like canned fish and meat are great options!
If you’d prefer to give financially, that’s no problem at all. Financial donations help The Mississauga Food Bank source and purchase fresh and healthy food year-round, much like the aim of AquaGrow Farms.
5. What’s next for AquaGrow Farms?
That’s a good question actually! We’re still in the process of making sure we’re reaching the full potential our farm can offer, but I think we’re getting close to that now.
From there, it seems like the sky’s the limit. We’re in the early stages of looking at other types of produce we can grow like tomatoes and we want to make use of every inch of space we have. In other words, we’re not done growing!
Get all the information on AquaGrow Farms at themississaugafoodbank.org/aquagrow.
Mississauga Demonstrates its Care with Exceptional Holiday Food & Fundraising Drive Donations
Annual Holiday Drive raised $519,430 and 241,785 pounds of food
Mississauga has once again demonstrated it is a caring city with a big heart. From November 23 to January 6; YOU contributed generously to feed hungry neighbours through our annual Holiday Food and Fundraising Drive.
By Friday, the community had generously donated $519,430 – breaking the previous year’s record for the Holiday Drive and exceeding this year’s goal of $500,000. Through community food drives, plus collections at local fire stations and grocery stores, the food bank also received 241,785 pounds of food. While the food donated fell short of the food bank’s goal of 275,000 lbs, financial donations will be used to purchase most needed items including fruit, vegetables and protein products.
The Holiday Drive is the food bank’s largest annual initiative to raise food and funds and was sponsored this year by corporate partners Nissan Canada Foundation and the Just Energy Foundation. Each year, 30% of funds and 20% of food for the entire year are raised during the important Holiday Drive.
Thank you for your generous support!
What I’m Thankful for at the Close of 2016
This blog post is written by Meghan Nicholls, our Director of Marketing and Development.
At the food bank, the month of December is the busiest time of the year. With hundreds of food drives and fundraisers in the community – we’re attending events, picking up donations, answering phone calls, and sending out messages asking for your support. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted in the midst of it all.
But when I stop for a few minutes and think about why we’re busy, I can’t help but feel so thankful.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. I’m blown away by the generosity of our community. Every year it amazes me how many people give financially to ensure their neighbours don’t go hungry. Did you know that in the month of December alone, 2,145 people made a donation to The Mississauga Food Bank? We’re not just quoting a slogan when we say “It takes all of us to feed our hungry neighbours”; it really does take all of you generous people!
2. We have caring organizations in Mississauga. Since the start of the Holiday Drive on November 21, 343 caring companies, groups, foundations and clubs made donations of food or finance to the food bank. WOW!
3. The next generation is learning how to give back. My favourite food drives and fundraisers are the ones run by kids. (Sorry adults!) I love seeing how excited they get at the food they raise, and hearing their great ideas to raise loonies or twonies. Kids get it that other kids shouldn’t go hungry and do such a great job taking care of hungry neighbours.
4. My colleagues are a great bunch of people. The Mississauga Food Bank has just 11 staff. And they work really hard, always looking for ways to make sure that we can get the most food out to those who need it. From working with those caring corporations to driving a truck to managing the food in our warehouse, our staff team take their responsibilities seriously. I’m honoured to work among this team who is so dedicated to no one going hungry in Mississauga.
We look forward to sharing the results of the Holiday Food and Fundraising Drive with you next week. Your caring and generous gifts will distribute nutritious food to those who need it most in our community!
Have you met #MississaugaMike?
He’s #MississaugaMike and he’s a corrugated box. We sent out 7,000 of him, asking you to donate to ensure we have boxes to distribute food in 2017.
Did you know that 22,000 boxes of food left the food bank warehouse this year? All full of wholesome, nutritious food that generous donors like you helped provide!
As we tape up and ship out the year 2016, will you help The Mississauga Food Bank get enough boxes for 2017?
The Mississauga Food Bank needs to raise $16,000 before December 31 to ensure there are sturdy boxes for 2017.
You can give $1 for free – Download the cut-out of #MississaugaMike, print and cut it out, then post a picture on social media with the hashtag #MississaugaMike. A generous neighbour will give $1 for every post with this hashtag to buy even more boxes!
Questions? Contact Meghan at 905-270-5589 x226 or by email.
The Newest Way to Feed Your Neighbours…My Own Fundraiser
We get it, the holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, doing things you enjoy together. You want to give back to help the community, but you’re worried you don’t have the time.
That’s why we’ve introduced My Own Fundraiser! With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can set up your own fundraising page (like Buddy the Elf’s page below) to help make the holidays a little warmer for the thousands of Mississauga residents who come to us for wholesome food.
You can personalize your page with your message and image, and send invitations to friends, family and co-workers to help reach your goal. It’s really that simple.
Here are some ways you can use it:
- Fundraising in lieu of gifts – Perhaps in honour of an important birthday or your wedding
- Recognizing a special event – For the opening of a new facility, at a party, or festival
- In the office – Set a goal and if your colleagues give enough to reach your goal, maybe the boss will shave his head!
- In Memory – Honour a loved one by raising money to feed your neighbours
- For an “a-thon” – Maybe it’s snowshoeing across the province, skipping rope all day, or a dance-a-thon, you can collect pledges online
Questions? Contact Mike at 905-270-5589 x227 or email@example.com.
7 Ways to Support The Mississauga Food Bank this Holiday Season
Here is our list of the top ways you can support the food bank this Holiday!
|1. Attend our Open House – tonight! From 5:00-8:00pm, you’re welcome to drop in for a warm drink and a cookie or two, and get a behind-the-scenes tour of food bank operations! Families are very welcome, and there won’t be any cost or solicitation. Get all the details here. (Can’t come tonight? Don’t worry, we’ll have another tour in February and each month after that.)||
|2. Make a financial donation. The food bank is an organization FOR the community, supported BY the community. In fact, 95% of our financial income comes from generous members of the community, with only 5% coming from the regional government. Remember, for every $2 you give, we can distribute food for 5 wholesome meals. And you’ll receive a 2016 tax receipt right away if you donate online.|
|3. Donate food. 85% of the 1.5 million pounds of food we give out every year is donated. And it takes all of us to make sure there’s enough! So check out our most needed items (and ‘not needed’ items) and drop off some food to your local fire station or to us here at the food bank. Involving your kids is a great way to teach them about giving back!||
|4. Organize a food drive. Events of all sizes play an important part in raising awareness about hunger in Mississauga and providing the food we need to feed our hungry neighbours. Maybe even make it a friendly competition between colleagues, departments or classes! We have tools to help you (like posters and collection boxes) and a staff person (Mike) dedicated to making your event a success! All the information is available here on our website.||
|5. Organize a fundraiser. In the same way as making a donation ensures we can distribute all that food, fundraisers are a great way to work together with others to raise even more! Fundraisers are limited only by your imagination – garage sales, scavenger hunts, charity dinners…almost anything! Feel free to use your own ideas, or take a look at some of ours. Mike is available to help you with these too. All the information is available here on our website.||
|6. Fundraise Online. My Own Fundraiser allows you to set up your own fundraising page, and send emails to your network inviting them to make a donation – then watch as you move up the thermometer towards your fundraising goal! It’s SO easy – and it can be used for almost anything! You can participate in a race. Organize a bake sale. Fundraise on behalf of a loved one. Invite friends to donate in lieu of birthday or holiday gifts. There are so many ways to ensure no one goes hungry! Get started with your own fundraiser today.||
|7. Spread the Word. Some people don’t know that there’s hunger in our city. So learn a little bit more about the face of hunger in Mississauga, and tell someone else what you learned. It takes all of us to feed our hungry neighbours – so spread the word!|
AquaGrow Farms Has Launched!
To meet this increasing demand, the food bank has launched its newest program as a creative method of sourcing fresh protein and produce. With the inauguration of this project, we are the first food bank in Canada to open an aquaponics farm!
AquaGrow Farms will produce approximately 645 servings of fish and over 10,000 servings of greens each year. All of the fish and greens will be distributed to member agencies across Mississauga. From there they will be given to hungry members of the community who otherwise would have limited access to fresh, healthy food.
“We are committed to providing our clients with access to healthy and fresh food. We are proud to launch AquaGrow Farms to draw attention the need for fresh food by those who live in poverty”, said Executive Director, Chris Hatch. “By opening this farm, we hope to inspire others to get involved in finding creative solutions to fight hunger in our communities.”
- our funder – Ontario Trillium Foundation
- MPP Damerla’s office
- the vendor and training company who has been so instrumental to our launch – Nelson + Pade
- Donors, volunteers, and other community stakeholders joined us to hear more about this innovative project.
YOU Can Get Involved By:
- Donating healthy food items to food drives, ensuring nutritious options for our hungry neighbours
- Giving financial donations to help The Mississauga Food Bank purchase and source additional healthy foods
- Come for a visit! We hold interactive, educational tours every 3rd Wednesday of every month at 6:00pm. Please RSVP to Colin Cotton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-270-5589 x231. If you are interested in bringing a school, corporate or community group for a tour at another time, please contact Colin to arrange a date and time. We even have a specialized tour just for kids!
- Volunteering: Please visit our Volunteer Calendar to register for any posted AquaGrow Farms volunteer opportunities.
- Stay up-to-date at themississaugafoodbank.org/aquagrow
Nourishing News for the Holidays
Every few months, we have the opportunity to share what’s happening at The Mississauga Food Bank in a newsletter that is sent to supporters all over our community.
This season’s newsletter features:
- a special message from Executive Director Chris Hatch
- the story of Jen, a local mom who found hope for her young family through the food bank
- details about our Holiday Hope Boxes and how you can join the Holiday Food and Fundraising Drive!
Please take a few moments to read the full newsletter here.
We also want to say a special thank you to our #HolidayDrive sponsors for their generous support:
What is a Holiday Hope Box?
For many in our community, the holiday season brings the anticipation of bountiful meals shared with friends, family and loved ones. But for others, this simply is not a reality. While the number of our hungry neighbours does not increase during the holiday season, it feels even more painful to be hungry during this festive time.
Now you’re probably asking yourself what goes into a Hope Box, and the answer is really simple.
When you give just $11, you are making it possible to provide 1 neighbour with about a week’s worth of food. The items an individual may receive from their neighbourhood food bank may look something like the picture to the right.
What are the typical items that actually go IN a Hope Box?
- Fresh food – fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat, 1L of milk, eggs
- Pantry staples – 1 box of cold cereal, 2 snacks, 2 cans of vegetables, 2 cans/jars of fruit, 1 soup or stew, 1 can of fish or meat, 1 small bag of pasta, 1 jar of pasta sauce, 2 cans of beans, 1 peanut butter or jam, 2 small bags of rice, 1 condiment,1 box of mac and cheese, 2 packs of cookies, 1 pack of tea bags/coffee/hot chocolate, 1 pack of crackers
- Personal Care & Household – 2 personal care items (shampoo, hygiene, etc.), 1 cleaning supplies/household item, and 2 rolls of toilet paper
We can provide all this food thanks to the generosity of our food donors – it’s pretty amazing for $11!
When you provide a Hope Box, your gift is more than just nutritious food, it’s a demonstration of hope. So this holiday season we are asking you to partner with us to #shareholidayhope by proving one or more #HolidayHopeBoxes to feed your hungry neighbours!
This holiday season we are asking you to partner with us to #shareholidayhope by proving one or more #HolidayHopeBoxes to feed your hungry neighbours!
It’s simple. Click here to give a Hope Box today.
Introducing Our Newest Member Agency: St. Mary’s Food Bank – Streetsville
Did you know that one of the greatest hindrances to people who need to access a food bank is travel time/cost?
At The Mississauga Food Bank we are always trying to break down the barriers that prevent people from accessing the food that they need. To do this, we work with food banks, pantries, snack/meal programs and breakfast clubs all over Mississauga. These member agencies play a key role in making it possible to combat hunger in the city.
So, we would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the newest agency in our network, St. Mary’s Food Bank – Streetsville! This food bank will be serving clients in the postal codes L5M and L5N. The clients in these postal codes were previously going to St. Mary’s Food Bank – Coopers, but we found the travel distance was creating too much of a barrier to them accessing the food they need.
Our solution to this problem was to support St. Mary’s Food Bank to launch their new Streetsville location. We are excited to see them ramp up their operations as more and more clients are redirected to this new location. With a food bank closer to home, our hope is that clients who did not go to any food bank before could start accessing their services.
Right now, this new food bank has a stable roster of volunteers, and food for the people they are serving. We couldn’t be more thrilled about this new partnership and are excited to see how St. Mary’s – Streetsville impacts the community around them! So far, the new food bank is serving approximately 20 households (80 people) a month!
Visit our food bank finder tool to find the neighbourhood food bank closest to you.