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The number of Canadians struggling to put food on the table has risen to one in seven due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Community Food Centres Canada. Ariel Reyes Antuan, co-founder of social enterprise Iyé Creative, has found that Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) communities are disproportionally affected by systemic barriers preventing access to healthy and nutritious food.

Inspired by Marie-Pierre Bilodeau from REFARMERS, Ariel started Palenke Greens with his partner Jess Barton from their home in downtown Victoria, B.C., in 2020. The goal? To help racialized and marginalized community members grow food in large burlap sacks in whatever space they had available, for example, on patios and balconies or in yards.

That year, the couple installed more than 50 gardens made of burlap sacks, which are filled with soil and have vegetable plants growing out the top and sides. Soon, the initiative expanded to include Palenke Produce Boxes, providing fresh, locally grown produce to households in partnership with local farms.

Feedback about food access in the community – and the under-representation of racialized individuals in active roles in the food system and local food initiatives – inspired Iyé Creative to turn to community-based research for answers.

“We’re going deeper into food systems and what’s happening in our community” says Ariel, who is Afrocuban with Haitian, Yoruba and Congo roots. “We find different stories of how people relate and understand land relationships. This is key for offering a critical examination of how colonial violence traumatized our relationship to home, lands and waters.”

In order to further explore land-based approaches to healing, the organization is creating community connections to empower people to build relations with the land while prioritizing BIPOC voices and connections to ancestral ways of knowing and being, says Ariel. “We’re working to make our food ecosystem more diverse and inclusive.”

See http://www.iyeherstories.com to offer support.


Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.