Youngsters get involved in setting up grow boxes at Mother’s Union Children’s Home. (Image courtesy Scotiabank Foundation)

Some 10,000 households in southern Trinidad and numerous children’s and special needs homes across the country are eating healthier and spending less on food, thanks to a seedling distribution initiative supported by the Scotiabank Foundation, which helped them set up their own kitchen gardens and grow boxes.

The Scotiabank Foundation reports that through a collaboration with the Sustainable Unemployment Reduction Efforts (SURE) Foundation, tomato, patchoi, lettuce, pimento pepper, eggplant and cauliflower seedlings, among others, were distributed to help reduce the food bills of the households and homes, as well as encourage healthy eating habits.

President of the SURE Foundation, Rebecca Gookool, points to many benefits of growing one’s own food.

“Household gardens have many benefits, including and especially, that it improves food security for the members of the home. If all households in T&T plant a small garden, then, food security of the nation improves. Other notable benefits of planting include increased carbon capture, which for an economy like ours, has critical climate change implications. We therefore encourage more persons to plant their own produce which has far reaching effects for the household as well as the nation,” she said.

An additional 2,000 families in San Fernando and environs also are benefitting from a youth focused, community initiative through Scotiabank’s collaboration with Key of David International (KODI). The project is encouraging young persons to develop an interest in the agriculture sector as a viable means for providing for themselves and their communities. In involved the creation of a vertical hydroponics system, which not only provides these families with green produce, but also equips young people with knowledge of hydroponic farming.

“What I love most about growing vegetables in the hydroponics system is that it takes just a few weeks to see the plants grow once we plant them. I always thought growing food was a long, complicated process, but I’ve learned that it can be done in a short period of time, without using harsh chemicals and when it’s ready it tastes really good,” said Shernica Hamlet, a 16-year-old volunteer with the KODI community hydroponics programme.

Managing Director of Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago, Gayle Pazos, observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has made such initiatives even more necessary.

“With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic locally, we focused our environmental investments on food sustainability initiatives, she noted.

“Food gardening behaviours have taken on a new significance, boosting community cohesion and resilience. We’re especially proud to see the younger generations get involved and learn about the importance of healthy living and promoting food sustainability,” she said.