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NEAT’s Green Change project hopes to increase food security in the Peace Region, by growing fresh vegetables year round in insulated shipping containers. Those containers would have LED growing lights and a hydroponics system powered by alternative energy. Program Coordinator Karen Mason-Bennett says this is a way for people to see how the vegetables will be grown on a small scale.

“I think when you say hydroponics in a shipping container, people get kind of lost in the idea,” she says. “This is an attempt just to give them a hands-on opportunity to really explore what this project entails.”

The system set up in the NPCC is one that NEAT has had in its office for years, and is currently growing tomatoes, peppers and herbs. There are two tubes connected to a large pot where nutrients can be fed to the plants. However, NEAT plans to use tables instead of tubes in the two 40 foot shipping containers it wants to use.

The large operation expects to produce 400 heads of lettuce, even throughout the winter when it’s normally very difficult to grow vegetables in our climate. The overall intention of the project is to place these containers side-by-side on brownfield lots, so the produce would be available directly to residents. Five per cent of whatever is grown will be donated to the local food bank.

“Part of the project is really trying to push local food security, but also access to really nutritionally deep foods,” explains Mason-Bennett, which means food that has reached its nutritional capacity, and not picked too early for sale.

NEAT currently needs approximately 2,500 votes to regain its first place spot for the $100,000 grant, but regardless of whether they win or not, Mason Bennett says the project will go ahead. To help support it, NEAT is holding car washes at the Totem Mall Shell Station in Fort St. John and the Dawson Creek Mall Shell Station from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Friday, August 3. To vote for NEAT’s project, fans can visit www.fuellingchange.com to vote online until October 31. People can vote multiple times by redeeming codes on their receipts after making a purchase at a Shell location.

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