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United Way B.C. comes to Cariboo to support community food security, more

A video project aims at gaining community-wide support for food hub
United Way B.C. workers were hosting a booth to engage with the central Cariboo community on Friday, Jul 14, 2023 at the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market. Kara Byrne, from left, Rachel Allan, and Chelsea Ingram were happy to chat about the Central Cariboo Food Hub, iVolunteer and other United Way B.C. initiatives. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

United Way B.C. has been working in Williams Lake on a new video project to build support in the community.

Three employees of United Way were at the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market on July 14 to chat with community members about some of the work they are doing across B.C. and in Williams Lake.

Rachel Allan, labour partnership representative, , manager of philanthropy, and Chelsea Ingram, campaign manager, and Kara Byrne were all hosting a table at the market.

United Way has been supporting the creation of a Central Cariboo Community Food Hub in Williams Lake, and is now ready to move to the next stage of development of the project.

The food hub so far has been in the planning, project assessment and initial project stages, focussing on food security.

“Now’s the time for us to start getting the community involved,” said Ingram, noting they are looking for volunteers and making a video to create awareness about where the needs in the community are and how the community can help.

The trio was there to support the group in Williams Lake, led by the Social Planning Council of Williams Lake and Area, in taking their next steps.

The video the group is working on will include interviews with community members as well as key players in the food hub itself, which they refer to as spokes and hubs and will be about the need for the project and how people can get engaged.

Food hub work has included recovering extra produce from both market leftovers and farmers fields, called gleaning. This food can then be distributed to key stakeholders in the community like the Women’s Contact Society and many others.

The local food hub has been supporting youth cooking classes, including making black bean brownies, to provide a good source of protein while also being something tasty enough youth will eat it without protest.

One key project the group does is to salvage leftover produce from farmers’ fields in the fall, most of which would be left and would otherwise go to waste. Instead, the food is gathered by volunteers and then stored in root cellars or made into soups, stocks or other food items which can be given out throughout the year to those in need.

This takes a lot of volunteers and so United Way will help to try and gather more people to help out using their iVolunteer platform.

Both non-profit organizations and those interested in volunteer opportunities to make a difference can connect via the United Way iVolunteer platform.

Their farmer’s market booth was introducing the iVolunteer platform to the community and hoping to get those interested in helping out with the food hub’s food security work including the gleaning from farmers’ fields to register.

When volunteer opportunities arise, volunteers get an email with information on where help is needed and can help if they want.

Ingram said as they have been making their video, people have been telling them what they love about the town is when somebody needs help in the community, all they need to do is ask.

“And the community shows up,” said Ingram.

So she said that is what they are doing, asking for people to come out and support their food hub project, whether that is through donations or volunteerism.

“We’re asking, can we do this, can we all work together and build this thing that will be instrumental for the growth and the health (of the community),” she said.

So far, in their second year, the Central Cariboo Community Food Hub has managed to provide 300 frozen meals and $2,500 in local produce and baked goods, and 2,000 pounds of recovered vegetables to partner organizations. They are increasing capacity for organizations to store healthy food donations through the purchase of freezers and engaging on regional and provincial levels to help support local food production in the region.

The United Way also provides other services to communities in B.C., including an initiative to provide menstrual products for those in need with their Period Promise campaign. While many women can be limited in their ability to participate in many activities every month due to lack of access to affordable period produces, the United Way helps by collecting menstrual products for low income people who need them. At the end of the campaign they share them to non profits in the community.

This year they collected over 28,000 and brought over 2,000 of those to Williams Lake.

“Our vehicle was filled with menstrual products to the brim,” said Ingram.

READ MORE: Central Cariboo Community Food Hub engages on local future of food security

READ MORE: Williams Lake Social Planning Council aims to address food security for the vulnerable

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

After moving back to Williams Lake, where I was born and graduated from school, I joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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