Submitted by Columbia Valley Food Bank 

No one should go hungry. Since the pandemic, food bank use continues to rise.

As a smaller nonprofit organization, the Columbia Valley Food Bank (CVFB) demonstrates both innovation and collaboration in our field. A rural community’s needs can differ based on the community itself.

Nesta Becker, Chair at CVFB, and fellow team members use innovative approaches that address social challenges in our community. We have had to battle volunteer shortages and lack of fundraising events, all cancellations due to COVID-19.

As the pandemic began and food insecurities being at an all-time high, we had to re-examine ways to maximize our support by taking customized approaches to problem-solving. Collaboratively speaking, we work with agencies and local businesses to create innovative ideas to meet that objective.

How did we do that?

We broadened our reach. With the assistance of our volunteers, we created a mobile delivery service to Edgewater once a week straight to our client’s doors.

We set up an emergency service. Through the assistance of our coordinator Kelsey Prichard and our volunteers, we offer an after hour emergency service. Since May 2021, we have opened our doors after hours for approximately 100 clients, again broadening our reach.

We created a coupon program for the farmer’s market. In collaborating with the Farmers Market Association, the goal is to get coupons in the hands of our clients to redeem those coupons for fresh produce. This not only meets the needs of our clients, but it also helps to bolster the local economy. We took that one step further as, again, many clients don’t have transportation; we use those coupons, buy fresh produce on their behalf, add it to the clients’ hampers and deliver straight to their homes.

The Columbia Valley has partnered up with Second Harvest Food Rescue. Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue charity with a dual mission of environmental protection and hunger relief. Together, we redistribute nutritious, unsold food from our local businesses to our clients. The food we are rescuing and redistributing to our clients in the Columbia Valley is primarily perishable: fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, juice, milk and more. Everything we redistribute is perfectly good food that has been donated because it is unsold surplus. Saving fresh – feeding the community.

We continue to broaden our reach to the youth of this community. This Summer Snack Program is a collaboration between the Summit Youth Centre and the CVFB. Together we provide 130 lunch bags each week to children and youth across the Columbia Valley. Each bag contains fresh fruit, veggies and healthy snacks. CVFB volunteers assemble the bags, and Summit Hub staff deliver and distribute the bags to catchment communities, including Edgewater, Canal Flats, Akisqnuk, Shuswap, and Invermere.

In addition to distributing snack bags, together we host a fun outdoor event for youth. There’s a BBQ, music, games and mobile skateboard park. Kids come to the event to collect their snack bags and connect with youth workers.

Too many families are still at risk of going hungry. One in six kids in Canada is food insecure, and that number keeps growing as families struggle to recover from the pandemic. The Food Bank continues to bring innovative ideas and forward thinking to the table to meet the needs of our valley, ensuring no one goes hungry.

We will continue to fight hunger and feed hope.