The Central Cariboo Community Food Hub Launching Into a Food Secure Future
On July 1st, the Williams Lake Social Planning Council entered into an agreement with United Way BC to launch a Community Food Hub project in our region. This is a first for both the Social Planning Council and our community, and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential.
What is a Community Food Hub you ask? Let’s start with a little background info! United Way has a long history of working on food security in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley regions, but since the start of the COVID pandemic, United Way recognized the shifting and increasing need across the province for “building a healthier, more equitable and sustainable food system”. As unemployment, supply chain disruptions, and food costs have risen, so too have the barriers to healthy, culturally-appropriate food, especially for vulnerable populations.
So they launched the United Way Food Security Initiative, which supports these United Way Regional Community Food Hub projects. These Food Hubs are both physical projects that focus on immediate food access needs, like providing groceries, food hampers, coupons, or prepared meals, but they also support wrap-around services important to improving food security, like food literacy and wellness programming, mental health support, employment services, childcare and others. The United Way Regional Community Food Hubs accomplish this by acting as a Hub or ecosystem of non-profit partners, residents, businesses, all levels of government, the agricultural sector and other funders “working collaboratively to best increase the food security of our communities.” These Food Hubs are “stewarded” by an existing organization in the community willing to take it on. In our case, that is the Williams Lake Social Planning Council.
There are now 16 United Way Regional Community Food Hubs in the province, the northernmost being the Central Cariboo, and they all have very inspiring projects on the go. Here are some examples:
The North Okanagan Land to Table Network delivers a number of food security and food systems projects, such as their Seniors Local Food Box Pilot Project, where they have partnered with their local Good Food Box program to purchase from local producers and processors and increase access to local food for vulnerable seniors across the region.
The Community Connections Society out of Cranbrook supports strengthening both their local food system and food security through their Farm Kitchen, Food Literacy, and Food Recovery programs.
The Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Vancouver is trialing a food box program for vulnerable populations with their United Way Regional Community Food Hub funding, in partnership with local farms to procure fresh and in-season meats and produce.
These are only a few of the amazing projects other United Way Food Hub steward organizations have going on, but one thing they all have in common is that they are partnership-driven. No one project is successful on its own. It relies on collaboration between many community partners with the shared goal of strengthening sustainable food security.
Being in the beginning stages of our own Community Food Hub Project, we want to build that foundation of partnerships. As the Community Food Hub Project Coordinator, I will be working hard to build relationships with all of the food security stakeholders in our region, and begin assessing our area’s specific food access and food system needs. If you have ideas or feedback, or simply want to get involved in localized solutions to food insecurity, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line!
For more information contact Brianna van de Wijngaard at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 778.961.0600
The Williams Lake Social Planning Council gratefully acknowledges the financial support of United Way BC.