Students at Wellington and Dover Bay Secondary schools have teamed up to enter the Aviva Community Fund contest in an effort to win $150,000 to build five free-food forests and native healing gardens in Nanaimo.
John Mandziuk, a teacher from Wellington school who is assisting in the initiative, said that with the two schools in the middle of a community that has one of the highest poverty rates in B.C., the goal is to help the community by creating "food forests" that would allow anyone to harvest fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
He said the vision of both environmental clubs is to collaborate with local First Nations and other groups to establish food gardens at Nanaimo's high schools and combine them with First Nations' healing gardens.
Students at Wellington school were at the centre of a spirited campaign last year to help Trevor Greene, a wounded war veteran from Nanaimo, acquire from the annual Aviva Community Fund contest a medical exoskeleton - worth nearly $100,000 - to assist with his recovery.
While the students' campaign failed to achieve their ultimate financial goal, they netted $5,000 from Aviva for having made the finals in the competition and they were instrumental in the decision by the Royal Canadian Legion to take on the challenge to raise the rest of the money on their own.
Mandziuk said a food forest is similar to a community garden in that it would give people in an urban area the chance to harvest fresh, local produce.
However, he said that unlike a community garden, a food forest is much more sustainable, and easier to maintain.
"The way food forests are laid out is similar to that of a real forest," Mandziuk said.
"With multiple layers ranging from tall trees to a green blanketed ground layer, food forests use every last bit of space. Also by carefully selecting the plants that make up the forest, you can prevent or minimize the need for weeding by choosing the species that will thrive in the areas where weedy plants usually dominate."
Mandziuk said the concept of combining healing gardens with the initiative is to teach First Nations elders who were victims of residential schools about the traditional healing methods they never had the opportunity to learn. People can get a description of the project and an opportunity to vote for it at www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf17339#.UkUHEpPJhQg.email.
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