The IIFCC’s main project is the Rainbow Community Gardens which began in the spring of 2008 at the University of Manitoba student garden and the St. Norbert community garden sites with support from the Knox Church, University of Manitoba, Food Matters Manitoba, St. Norbert Foundation, Heifer International and other local organizations.
Rainbow Community Gardens is a community-based project started by a group of new immigrant and refugee families from 14 different countries with goal to create access to local organic fresh and nutritious produce for their own, while contributing to the beautification of the city of Winnipeg. We have started growing local but also vegetables from our home countries in the Winnipeg area since 2008. In addition to vegetables that are common in Manitoba, we are growing crops that many Canadians have never heard of or seen before. We grow vegetables for own families and to sell the extra at Central Park Market and other farmers’ markets in downtown Winnipeg. Immigrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia find that many of the vegetable and grain crops they are familiar with and would eat regularly are not grown in Manitoba. They are left buying over-priced, not fresh tropical produce that has been imported by specialty stores.
Our Cooperative (IIFCC) has been addressing this problem by promoting the growing of culturally appropriate, healthy tropical vegetables right here in Manitoba. This is important given the increased risk of health concerns for populations that are unable to find wholesome food that is affordable and culturally appropriate. Finally, through the Rainbow Community Gardens, new immigrants and refugee families are learning Canadian basic life skills, practicing English language, building community, connecting with others and contributing to a vibrant Manitoba. Many of our member participants, men and women who had been through incredible atrocities in their home countries, and who have been suffering from aftermath, have found the gardens as an ideal place where to exteriorise their moral and spiritual pains, by sharing it with their peer gardeners. In other words, we use the garden space as a food production place but also as a healing site. We strongly believe that the vegetables we are producing are important to Manitoba agriculture as the number of people from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia continues to increase and the vegetables prices too. Currently, there are 148 new immigrants and refugee families from 23 different nationalities actively involved in the Rainbow community gardens. There are 72 families on a waiting list for the 2014 growing season, due to the lack of gardening space available.