This Hidden U of T Rooftop Farm Helps Feed the Hungry - And Could Impact How Cities Eat

Sourced from University of Toronto Alumni News

To feed Toronto, we must import more than 6000 tonnes of food every single day. As a result, more than 30 per cent of Toronto's environmental footprint is food-related—including the impact of shipping, pesticides and packaging. In fact, Toronto's food footprint affects the environment even more than its car traffic. And the reliance on imports also comes with a social cost: for those in poverty, fresh, organic produce can be hard to access.

But atop an engineering building at the University of Toronto, students are conducting a living experiment in doing food differently: one of the city's biggest and most innovative food-producing rooftop gardens.

For more than eight years, Sky Garden's student and alumni volunteer farmers have planted, watered, weeded, and harvested produce on the bright, windswept rooftop of U of T's Galbraith Building. Their yield clocks in at an impressive 500 pounds of fresh, organic produce a year, and they send more than half of it directly to nearby Scott Mission—so that people in need can receive hot meals made with organic, locally grown produce.

“The garden takes inanimate concrete and transforms it into something that’s growing things,” says Matt Stata, a PhD student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, who helps oversee the project.

“It’s an example of what's possible,” says Stata. “There are so many unused roof spaces in Toronto that could be producing food... and so many people who would love to garden, but don't have any space to do it. And the people at Scott Mission are ecstatic when we bring over bags and bags of fresh produce. There's a real need.”

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