St. Anne Academic Centre students would like to bring vegetable shopping to a community garden near you. Using a self-sustaining ecosystem as a model, the group has been testing hydroponics systems in the classroom growing their own herbs and vegetables. Through this venture they hope to inspire environmental awareness and encourage urban farming practices as well as tackle food inflation.
“We’re looking at how can we grow things locally and taking a look at the whole ecological footprint that we are leaving worldwide” says instructor Warren Kirilenko. “The average meal a person is eating (leaves) a 1,500-mile footprint from where it starts to your supper plate. So how do you reduce that?”
Hoping to reduce that distance number, the class is using several different energy efficient lights to grow tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs and several other edible plants. Through their sanctuary program they will also sell hydroponics systems to fund a full-featured documentary film project and community outreach efforts.
“We’re also going into the community and transforming grass areas into community gardens from a permaculture perspective using composting vegetables and waste, and enriched soil” says Kirilenko adding the documentary will be distributed to schools and community centres across Canada. The special-education program group has also been studying the effects a vitamin-rich, fresh produce diet has on depression and social anxieties. With the help of doctors they’ve studied seasonal affective disorder and the lack of vitamin D.
“Some of those students that did have depression we brought in full-spectrum lighting, which had tremendous effect on the general mood in the classroom”. The group is also building sample systems targeting inner-city schools, various community associations - drop-in centres and retirement homes - and northern Canada where fresh-food supplies and the growing season is greatly diminished.
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