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Southcentre Mall’s rooftop transforms into a garden to help provide food for families

It’s estimated that the rooftop garden will yield 1,000 pounds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs

The rooftop garden of Southcentre Mall will support local charity Made by Momma. // Submitted

Southcentre Mall’s rooftop has been transformed into a garden.

The rooftop garden will support local charity Made by Momma—a non-profit organization that assists families in crisis.

It will be installed and overseen by urban agricultural experts at MicroHabitat.

It’s estimated that the rooftop garden will yield 1,000 pounds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs over the course of summer to provide Made by Momma with fresh produce.

Women helping women

Allyson Palaschuk, volunteer president and a founding member of Made by Momma, says the organization wants to take the burden of cooking off mothers who are struggling.

The volunteers of Made by Momma prepare and distribute homemade frozen meals to their clients, assisting families that face challenges of all kinds.

“A mom might be ill, she might have postpartum depression, maybe her husband passed away… There’s a lot of different reasons why families come to us for support,” Palaschuk says.

In addition to meals, Made by Momma also provides basic needs such as baby essentials, hygiene products, clothes, and school supplies to help families in need.

The organization has been active for 14 years and is completely volunteer-run. Last year, Palaschuk says volunteers logged over 25,000 hours.

Made by Momma runs on the support of its community, and the rooftop garden is just one example.

Made by Momma is much more than a food bank as its volunteers provide families in need with homemade frozen meals. // Submitted

A creative solution

Palaschuk says she was contacted by Alexandra Velosa, marketing manager at Southcentre Mall, about the initiative.

“I just got a LinkedIn message out of the blue that said, ‘Hey, Allyson, I have this idea I want to run past you,’” Palaschuk says.

“She said, ‘I have this flat roof at our mall, and I had this idea that we could put a community garden in to use the space more effectively and provide your charity with much-needed produce.’”

Lack of produce is a challenge Made by Momma faces consistently.

With increasing grocery prices and new families asking for assistance every week, the organization has its hands full.

In 2022, Made by Momma fed 1,581 families. It’s supported 1,370 families this year, and it's only May.

“Last year, our volunteers made almost 130,000 servings of nutritious meals and baked goods,” Palaschuk says. “We know that the need is just going to get greater, and we need to be a little bit more creative in how we are going to support all these families coming to us.”

Velosa is proud to be a part of the initiative to support the community with a sustainable solution.

“Partnering with like-minded organizations like Made by Momma allows us to actively engage in our commitment to supporting Calgarians through initiatives that meet their physical needs, while also serving them with dignity and respect,” she says.

Supports that make it possible

Donor partners, the Kinsmen Club of Calgary and the Kinette Club of Calgary, are helping to make the garden possible by contributing $20,000 each to the project.

With their contribution, Palaschuk says they can double their impact and make the most out of the garden.

“Calgary has a short growing season,” she says. “We wanted to make sure that we grow and harvest as much fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs as we possibly can.”

Having MicroHabitat oversee the project will also lend greater results.

“I have a bit of a black thumb,” Palaschuk laughs. “This is not my forte and I would not want to be overseeing this, so I’m super grateful that there’s someone that is an expert taking care of this.”

Made by Momma worked with MicroHabitat to determine what to plant and what would best benefit frozen meals.

Additionally, Southcentre already has urban beehives residing on its rooftop. Honey from the bees will be donated to Made by Momma, and the garden itself will contribute to the bees’ habitat.

The garden opened on May 24 with 100 planters taking over the roof. Palaschuk looks forward to seeing what the garden yields and how the initiative will continue into the future.

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