To have everyone participate in a food secure and sustainable community.

Growing healthier communities one tomato at a time.

Where did the idea for One Tomato come from?

One Tomato was inspired by the Victory Gardens of World War II. Victory Gardens were home-grown vegetable gardens promoted by the U.S. and Canadian governments during WWII. In 1943, in a radical act of war support, Eleanor Roosevelt had the front lawn of the White House ploughed up, and she planed a Victory Garden. This year, First Lady Michelle Obama has also planted a victory garden at the White House.

During the war, American gardeners grew about forty percent of the produce eaten in the U.S., all from plots planted in any available space including front lawns, vacant city lands, parks, and school yards.

Today, we have enough space to feed everyone, we just have to change green space to food space.

The History of One Tomato (as of early 2016)

One Tomato was launched by Megan O’Neil and Darren Hakker on Earth Day in 2009 to encourage residents in Sarnia, Ontario to plant, grow and eat more vegetables, giving their extras to local food banks.

In 2010, One Tomato volunteers handed out 500 tomato plants in one day at an environmental and art street festival in Sarnia called Artwalk. Hundreds of plants were also pre-planted as ‘bucket gardens’. This initiative exhausted all tomato plants in Lambton County. Shortly after this event, One Tomato created a small vegetable garden at the Sarnia Library, open to all. Concern was raised by those who wanted to pick vegetables, because there never seemed to be any ripe. It was discovered that the homeless people who used a nearby park relied on the garden for their daily food intake.

In 2011, One Tomato and its intrepid team of volunteers built a 100’x35′ vegetable garden in the heart of downtown Sarnia. A major barrier was lack of funding, but this was broken through long-term sustainable support from local businesses and individuals who gave of their time and products. What was once an overgrown site of concrete and weeds quickly became a breathtaking vegetable garden for all to use and appreciate. Throughout the summer, plants produced delicious vegetables and fruit, often barely ripe when freely picked it to eat.

At the same time, Scouts Canada launched the One Tomato badge, to encourage children to actively participate in healthy eating and turn sod into edible gardens.

On June 4 and 5, 2011, One Tomato Project further helped to promote the creation of edible gardens during Artwalk. Throughout this one weekend, volunteers handed out 1,000 tomato plants (equal to 5,000+ pounds of produce) generously donated by DeGroot’s Nurseries; assisted in creating 200 ‘bucket gardens’; gave away 1,000 garden stakes made with reclaimed wood and branded with the One Tomato logo; handed out 540 colouring books to children, featuring custom illustrations; and taught festival-goers about the importance of urban nature and gardening. There were cost limitations on the effectiveness of this weekend’s initiative, so One Tomato secured corporate funding through Sun Life Financial to ensure all of its ambitions could be fulfilled.

From June 14-17, 2011, Megan and Darren participated in Spring Days, coordinated by Lambton-Kent Agriculture in the Classroom. At the event, they helped to teach 350 children and 50+ volunteers about the value of farming and eating healthy. More than 600 tomato plants and information kits on sustainability were given away.

In the fall of 2011, One Tomato received funding through the Sarnia Community Foundation to run an in-class elementary school program called Food Works to prepare youth with the basic culinary skills required to make healthy food choices in their homes. The program targets grade seven students and teaches them about food groups, healthy living, food skills and environmental responsibility.

On November 3, 2011, the One Tomato Project was awarded the prestigious Suncor Sustainability Award, a mark of distinction and recognition for contributions to social equity, ecological integrity and economic prosperity demonstrated in Sarnia.

In 2012, One Tomato launched an exciting partnership with Goodwill Industries – Essex Kent Lambton to further develop our local foods system and create a position for a Local Food Systems (LFS) Coordinator for Sarnia-Lambton. This collaboration created a plan and received two years of funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to facilitate food security and healthy living by making connections between local farmers, producers, and city residents. One Tomato expanded upon this in 2015.

Also in 2015, with the partnership of many local organizations, One Tomato launched its hub in downtown Sarnia. This location includes office and storage space, as well as a certified kitchen called the Sarnia Cabinets Kitchen. This is now a local food focalpoint in Sarnia, and will continue to help grow local, healthy food in Sarnia-Lambton and around the world.

Today, through One Tomato’s elementary school healthy eating program, Food Works, One Tomato runs a program to teach children how to prepare local, in season, healthy foods and give them valuable culinary skills. Through One Tomato’s community gardens program, The Commons, One Tomato is continuing to help people have free access to fresh produce in their neighbourhoods. And through the One Tomato Project, One Tomato is continuing to encourage home gardeners to plant, grow and eat more produce, and to give what they have left to local food banks.

At every step along the way, One Tomato has empowered many other organizations to follow its lead. This has not only resulted in more produce given away, but also keeps residents healthier and more active. More than two dozen businesses grow produce in the name of One Tomato, not including the countless residents who did so on their own. Myles Vanni, the Executive Director of the Inn of the Good Shepherd, said that “As a food bank that receives the donated produce, [One Tomato] has been a tremendous benefit for us. It has created a large volume of food coming in during the summer months which traditionally is a period of slow donations.”

The work of One Tomato has led to greater poverty reduction, food security, environmental sustainability and healthy living, but it has only just begun. With greater collaboration and support, it will expand the projects it already has in progress, and will succeed in its goal to make Sarnia-Lambton a healthy, sustainable community.