The Italian Cultural Centre’s “East Van Green” initiative is a collection of projects that includes a community garden, an urban farm partnership, farmers’ market, a zero waste initiative, a creek restoration program and various food literacy and education programs.
“We have a beautiful park on our north side,” says Mauro Vescera, Executive Director of the Italian Cultural Centre. “About three years ago we applied for funds to create a community garden. In 2015, we opened our 40 plot garden with an orchard and beehives.”
With the community garden, the Italian Cultural Centre established a composting program in collaboration with the Recycling Alternative organization and transforms food scraps from the Centre’s kitchen to provide compost for the community garden while reducing the amount of waste that needs to be hauled away.
In the course of researching the location of the community garden, the Centre discovered that a drainage ditch crossing the park was, in fact, part of an urban watershed that used to be home to beavers and salmon.
“It became part of a landfill,” Mauro explains, “We applied for a grant from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and received funds to restore the creek. We involved the students from our resident Montessori school and our Italian-Canadian youth group and rehabilitated and revitalized this urban creek.”
The East Van Green initiative is also focused on education and raising awareness about food literacy.
“We’ve made the connection to Il Mercato – our farmers’ market – and raised awareness of local, fresh organic food, which connects back to being Italian, because that’s how the Italians do it: composting and using genuine produce in their cuisine.”
With the introduction of the East Van Green initiative, the Centre runs summer workshops on pasta and bread making, mushroom foraging, and pastry classes as well as an after school program where children experience a hands on approach to food and nutritional literacy.
“With our East Van CAN (East Vancouver Culinary Arts Network) program,” Mauro explains, “kids come and make value-added products using locally grown produce and herbs. They become Food Safe certified and gain educational credits because it’s part of the school curriculum.”
For more information on the Italian Cultural Centre and its East Van Green initiative, visit the website, send an email, or call them at 604.430.3337. Check out the Facebook page or catch them on Instagram. The Italian Cultural Centre is conveniently located at 3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver.