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Community reaps benefit from garden initiative

(Marisela Amador The Eastern Door)


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The Kahnawake Collective Impact (KCI) Food Sovereignty Initiative was a huge success. After completing a harvest workshop in early October, 300 hot meals were prepared and delivered to community members in need.

Randy Cross, who runs the initiative, said that during the weekend-long workshop, around a dozen volunteers participated and harvested corn.

“For two days, we learned how to do all these traditional methods. And it was very successful, and everybody was happy,” said Cross.

Steven McComber, the technician and seed keeper at the communal garden, taught volunteers how to braid and dry the corn.

Earlier this year, the initiative received funding from the Community Initiatives Fund (CIF) and Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS) to establish a communal harvest garden and to build 30 home gardens planted on mounds.

Both projects planted traditional Three Sister gardens, which consist of corn, beans and squash.

“It was always part of the initiative to distribute the food to the community,” said Cross.

But Cross realized that in order to prepare and deliver over 300 hot “Three Sisters” meals, he would need help and extra money.

He decided to apply for a grant from the Second Harvest Food Rescue, Canada’s largest food rescue charity and an expert on perishable food recovery. The charity supports non-profit food programs across Canada.

“After I got the grant, I contacted the Kateri Food Basket at the Knights of Columbus, and I talked to Cory Rice and explained to him what I wanted to do, and he was very interested,” he said.

Cross then hired Virginia Standup Catering to cook and distribute the food to the Knights of Columbus hall.

The hot meal consisted of cornbread, sausage and gravy.

Cross also hired Eileen’s Cakes & Pastries to prepare squash cakes and complete the Three Sisters meal.

Once the food was delivered to the Knights of Columbus hall, the Kateri Food Basket volunteer drivers distributed the meals to homes of families already signed up with the food bank.

The deliveries were done over three consecutive Mondays in October.

“The backbone of helping people is the Kateri Food Basket. It was the perfect collaboration. It was a big hit, and a lot of people appreciate it,” said Cross.

But not only was he able to have the meals prepared and delivered, Cross was also able to use some of the grant money to buy equipment for the process of making traditional food.

“I bought a grinder, a steam boiler, some dehydrators, some corn shellers and a bunch of stuff that can be utilized by the whole community. Anybody can use it,” he said.

And it is not over yet. Cross and his wife Sharon are now in the process of making and delivering 300 mason jars of Three Sisters’ traditional soup to the food basket.

“The corn has to be clean, rinsed and a couple more hours of boiling to make it hominy. Sharon is helping to dry squash. Then they have to be pressured and canned for distribution,” said Cross.

The distribution of the soups will be similar to the hot meals and will be delivered to families’ homes over three consecutive Mondays in December.

“Next season, I want to duplicate what we did and have an even bigger garden,” said Cross.


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