KINGSTON -- A Kingston organization is pushing to see more gardens in backyards, as a way to keep the community healthy and fed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fresh food and the production of food in our backyards is more important than ever,” explains Melanie Redman of Loving Spoonful.

“Because in terms of the amount of people that are facing food insecurity that’s just going to keep growing the longer people are out of their jobs.”

Loving Spoonful is a Kingston charity which helps connect people with healthy food.

As a creative way to do that during the pandemic, they’re asking residents to plant gardens and donate some of the fruit and vegetables that grow.

Community garden coordinator Ayla Fenton says the group will even provide the seeds and help with tips online to get people started.

“I think this whole crisis is separating people,” says Fenton. “People are forced to stay home, and this is a way that people can work towards a collective effort while still staying at home. It’s also a great way for people to get together as families.”

One of the major hurdles to getting the donations the groups need has been the loss of community gardens.

There are over 20 gardens spread out across the city, according to Fenton. People who don’t have the space in their own backyards or have small apartments can rent out plots and actually grow a garden.

But they’ve been shut down since the City of Kingston declared a state of emergency. The community gardens fall under “parks” and have not been deemed essential services.

Fenton says they’re pushing the province to change that, but in the meantime, they need residents to grow the food in their own backyard.

“Last year 5,000 pounds of food was donated by community gardens to Loving Spoonful that we then distributed,” explains Fenton. “If the community gardens are not reopened by the provincial government that would represent a huge loss in terms to our community of the amount of fresh produce for the folk who need it.”

Beyond the need for fresh produce donations, the group says growing food in a garden is fun for the whole family.

“Kids are amazed when they see from a little seed in a packet, to seeing it on their plates from stuff they grew themselves,” says Redman. “It’s really special and I think could add to every families experience.”

Fenton agrees, especially at a time like this.

“Everybody doing their part and growing food wherever they can, during this crisis and even beyond, will help our food systems in the future.”