Roots to Harvest is an inspiring, community driven, social enterprise located in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I first heard the name promoted as an extra-curricular activity at my high-school, but I was not aware of its mission.
According to Erin Beagle, executive director of Roots to Harvest, “We are using food to promote people having purpose, belonging and access to supports.”
Roots to Harvest provides food and so much more: jobs, a source of income, benefits for workers, access to social services, and confidence. Roots to Harvest trains members in gardening, harvesting, and turning raw ingredients into food. They provide supports including access to child care, a housing mentor, and human connection. After the harvest is over, Roots to Harvest follows their members as they continue to grow, learning valuable life skills and gaining a community of friends. By using food to bring people together, those impacted by poverty are made to feel safe, in a prejudice-free environment.
Roots to Harvest touches on several of the United Nations sustainable development goals, and there are three that describe their mission. The first is Health and Well-Being. The physical labour required while gardening and harvesting is great exercise, and fresh air clears the mind. Roots to Harvest promotes a healthy diet of fresh, locally grown food. The emotional and spiritual well-being of members is also valued and promoted through human connection and access to resources.
Another UN sustainability goal is Responsible Production and Consumption. All of the products grown and produced are sold locally. They have diverse sources of revenue including donors, fundraisers, sales and government funding. The amount of waste produced from a garden-oriented business is little to none.
Lastly, Roots to Harvest supports the goal of Sustainable Cities and Communities. They provide income and jobs for people who may have been turned away in the past due to situations and hardships. Creating jobs and local income is a benefit for Thunder Bay’s economy. The carbon footprint from Roots to Harvest is minimal, making it a great example of Sustainable Cities and Communities.
The future for Roots to Harvest is inspiring. The next step is becoming a Canadian Food Center. Roots to Harvest will have the opportunity to send out meals to those in need significantly faster and more efficiently. This food centre will be one of fifteen across Canada and will produce jobs and community involvement.
There is a saying: “If you give a man a fish he will eat for one day, but if you teach him how to fish he can eat for a lifetime.”
Roots to Harvest does this. They educate and empower people with sustainable practices, helping the community find access to resources, and helping people gain confidence to continue to be productive members of society, with the knowledge of how to live a sustainable lifestyle.