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United Way and Interior Health partner to support food security

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Interior Health’s Public Health Dietitian Team has announced the start of a new three-year pilot program designed to provide the United Way of British Columbia (UWBC) with the goal of enhancing the food security program.

According to the UWBC, in 2022 nearly 17 per cent of British Columbians, around 857,000 people, live in “food-insecure households.” The number is higher for children under 18 at around 22 per cent.

Interior Health (IH) said this collaboration aims to allow “everyone to work towards common goals, streamline funding, and build a larger pot of money for greater sustainability.”

One example demonstrating the effectiveness of this new partnership cited by IH are the numerous food hubs located in the East Kootenay. With support from UWBC the work of dedicated organizations and individuals throughout these communities has culminated in the creation of the Kimberley-Cranbrook Food Hub (KCFH).

Since its founding two years ago, the KCFH has worked on building relationships, including with organizations such as Cranbrook Food Recovery, Healthy Kimberley Food Recovery Depot and the Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank. These organizations have formed a network that improves the efficiency of their operations by refining their processes and avoiding duplication.

READ MORE: The Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank welcomes community to open house

This last piece is critical when trying to meet a growing demand, as it allows the KCFH to work towards their goal of providing more food to more people.

READ MORE: The Healthy Kimberley Food Recovery Depot celebrates fourth birthday

“I am grateful for the opportunity to meet regularly with the amazing people working on food security projects in our region,” said Sophie Larsen of Cranbrook’s Farm Kitchen.

“I often feel that our most meaningful work is not on the agenda, but in what happens at the edges of our meetings: making official community plan recommendations, applying for collaborative grant applications, and sharing new ideas.”

In addition to improving the efficiency of their services, the KCFH has developed an online Food Asset Map, held a mini food summit, created the Plant A Row initiative and strengthened the Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon program in the East Kootenay.

The Food Asset Map was created by the KCFH in response to the growing threat of food insecurity. Partially driven by climate change-related events such as wildfires and drought, plus supply chain issues and labour shortages resulting from the pandemic, the price of groceries has risen exponentially, with no signs of slowing down.

On their website, KCHF said that by mapping food infrastructure, resources and organizations throughout the community, they hope to:

  • Make visible the range and diversity of food assets in our region
  • Inform efforts to strengthen food security at community, household, and individual levels
  • Understand strengths/weaknesses and opportunities/challenges in our regional food system
  • Identify food-related community economic development opportunities
  • Inform urban land use planning
  • Help strengthen connections between local food producers and our communities

Despite strides made by the KCFH, it is still faced with challenges including securing reliable funding, as many grants are provided in one-year terms with no guarantee of renewal.

Collaboration between so many different community organizations can also be challenging, as they all work towards a shared vision, but IH said the Regional Community Food Hub Program has been a positive force to allow Kimberley and Cranbrook-based groups to support each other through their differing roles.

Plans for the future include continued development of relationships with local farmers and the community, support of local School Districts 5 and 6 with their Feeding Futures programs and building relationships with Indigenous communities.

You can add your organization, business or institution to the Food Asset Map by contacting kimcranfoodhub@gmail.com Learn more about the work done by the KCFH at kimcranfoodhub.wixsite.com