Burger Love™ ‘Give Back Burger’ funding supports the creation of the PEI Hospice’s Gardens of Life in Charlottetown

The Burger Love campaign was launched by Fresh Media in 2011 as a strategy to promote and support Island beef producers. In 2017 Burger Love introduced a new initiative, Give Back Burger, where $1 from every Burger Love burger sold at participating restaurants was donated to charitable causes supporting Islanders.

That first year, 36 restaurants participated in the voluntary program raising just over $60,000, which funded 10 food security projects for an average of $5000 apiece through a grant competition held by the United Way of PEI. In 2018, 29 of 85 restaurants participated, raising $63,560 towards food security projects that are currently underway.

Emily MacMillian, marketing and engagement co-ordinator at the United Way PEI said Give Back Burger was “a natural partnership” for the United Way. “Our mission is essentially to bringing the right people with the right skills at the table to solve the Island’s biggest issues.” Food security is clearly one of our major issues on PEI. “Though we are the million acre farm here on PEI, we are tied for the highest food insecurity rates in Canada,” MacMillian said.

In the inaugural year of Give Back Burger, the United Way funded “a nice range [of projects], supporting Islanders from all walks of life,” MacMillian said. With a goal of promoting sustainable long-term food security programs on PEI, the United Way decided to focus 2018 fund on three large-scale grants, each up to $25,000. Grants were announced in early 2019 and will fund three projects: Nutritional Breakfast Program (Boys and Girls Club of Summerside), Youth Mentorship Initiative (Community of Saint Peters), and School Food Program (Home and School Federation).

Gardens of Life, a project pitched by Hospice PEI, was one of ten successful grant winners in 2017. Last August, when the Gardens of Life were in full bloom, Nancymarie Arsenault, Director at Hospice PEI, led Salty on a tour of the gardens at the Provincial Palliative Care Unit (PPCU) on Murchison Lane in Charlottetown with Clara and Kerry, two clients of Hospice PEI.

Clara jokingly tells Kerry and Nancymarie about gardening best practices Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

“What got me thinking that we should apply for this grant is that we had a client in the western part of this province. He was well enough to be at home, and he was receiving palliative and hospice services,” Arsenault said, “and he let one of our volunteers know that he was really struggling to get food. For all kinds of reasons. The biggest being that he didn’t live close enough to anywhere to get food. And certainly money was an issue for him.”

A few weeks after this patient’s situation came to light, the call for the grant went out. “Oh my gosh! That’s a perfect opportunity for Hospice to be doing something for at-home hospice and palliative patients,” Arsenault said.

Gardens for Life began as a set of raised garden beds. “Originally we thought patients and families and visitors would go out and use garden tools and do stuff,” Arsenault said. But she was surprised by how the gardens began to build community at the PPCU.

The garden boxes “have far exceeded what we thought they would do. We thought there’d be a trickle but every time I look out the window, there’s someone walking by the gardens. They are checking them out. They’re looking. You can see them talking,” Arsenault said. Staff and volunteers quickly became involved as well. Arsenault admits to coming in on the weekends “to water, during that real dry spell.” “Sometimes it’s a race to see who gets in first to water,” Arsenault said. “One staff member summed it up. She said ‘I love being out here in the morning. It’s a great way to start the day.’”

The Garden of Life have been a big hit with staff and residents alike Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

The raised boxes are themselves unique. They were designed by one of Hospice PEI’s volunteers to be accessible to all patients. They stand high off the ground, “so a wheelchair can fit under it,” Arsenault explained. “We bought cedar so it would last a really long time…[and we do] square foot gardening so we utilize the least space as possible to grow the most amount of food. The idea was to get [plants] to grow up or down from the boxes, to get the most out of the space,” Arsenault said pointing out the green beans. “The only thing that is growing in the soil is the beets. We were eating the greens but then we left some to grow and we’re thinking of making pickles.” The seedlings were all from Heartbeet Organics because they “guaranteed that they would be pesticide free,” Arsenault said. No pesticides are used in the boxes. Marigolds are the only insect repellants.

The food from the Garden of Life is used at the Provincial Palliative Care Unit.

“The kitchen staff have asked us to grow herbs, specific kinds of herbs, so we’ve done that,” Arsenault said. Herbs, vegetables, and even flowers from the garden augment the meals served to patients at the unit. “Everything is getting used here.” Plans for the second year of the project include increasing picnic table seating near the garden boxes, to explore a partnership with a gardening centre for sustainability and to begin to provide food for patients in the community. “We haven’t yet brought [the vegetables] out to our patients, our clients out in the community. There hasn’t been a request for it yet.”

In 2019, 38 of the 85 Burger Love restaurants are expected to participate in Give Back Burger with a new charitable focus—Anderson House, “a provincial emergency shelter for women and children who are in need of safety because of violence in their lives,” Melody Dover, of Fresh Media describes in a recent press release.

l-r Lindsay Merrill, Anderson House; Paula Shea, O’Shea’s Pub & Eatery; Melody Dover, Fresh Media; Danya O’Malley, Anderson House submitted photo

“We are truly touched by those restaurants that want to support our valuable work,” Danya O’Malley, executive director of PEI Family Violence Prevention Services (who operates Anderson House), said. “Any funds we raise goes directly to frontline crisis services to respond to people in need of support.”

Give Back Burger 2019 launches March 29 with the annual Burger Love™ campaign all across PEI.