Williams Lake could soon be home to a new facility to help address food security in our region.
The Williams Lake Social Planning Council (WLSPC) entered into an agreement with United Way BC to launch a community food hub project in the Cariboo region last year and is working on a project plan to make it happen.
“This is a first for both the Social Planning Council and our community, and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential,” stated Brianna van de Wijngaard, project coordinator for the Central Cariboo Community Food Hub Project.
This food hub will be aimed at addressing food security for vulnerable members of the community.
The United Way has a long history of working on food security for the vulnerable 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.
According to the United Way website, in 2020, almost 15 per cent of Canadian households experienced food insecurity.
So they launched the United Way Food Security Initiative, which supports these United Way regional community food hub projects.
These “food hubs” include physical projects that focus on immediate food access needs, like providing groceries, food hampers, coupons or prepared meals.
They also support supplemental services important to improving food security, like food literacy and wellness programming, mental health support, employment services, childcare and others.
The Central Cariboo food hub location has not yet been determined, but that is part of the planning currently underway as the WLSPC works on the project.
Consultation with local stakeholders is taking place and in February, stakeholders will be engaged for feedback on the research and plan as it develops.
The stakeholders will include local and regional governments, emergency food access providers, food distributors, and farmer’s market producers.
The Williams Lake Social Planning Council will coordinate the local food hub for these community stakeholders.
The plan will be completed in March and will then allow the organization to apply for the next round of funding to move forward.
This facility would bring the count up to 16 United Way food hubs in the province, and would be the northernmost one.
While Quesnel has a food hub facility, theirs is structured differently and is funded by government with the focus more towards supporting food producers and entrepreneurs.
The United Way food hubs rely 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,” said van de Wijngaard.
For feedback on this, for more information, or if you have other ideas for food security projects, contact: Brianna van de Wijngaard at email@example.com or call 778-961-0600.