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Program Updates | Fall 2021
Happy Fall! 

Summer and Fall of 2021 were busy and abundant seasons at LUSH Valley.  Our staff team expanded to 15 wonderful folks and together we supported 13 gardens; 8 School Gardens, 2 Community Gardens and 3 Social Housing Gardens.  We have been very happy to be partnering with North Island College this year to deliver a Sustainable Farming program. Our Fruit Tree program Harvested 18,000 lbs of fruit through 134 fruit harvest events and we are continuing to distribute thousands of Hot Meals and Good Food Boxes throughout the community. Our produce for these programs has been sourced from 18 local Comox Valley Farms.

In September we sold out the first annual Farm to Table Fundraiser at Amara Farm, featuring a 5-course plant-based menu. With the support of many generous donors and a dedicated team of staff and board, our longtime dream of owning our own space became a reality when we moved into our ‘Forever Home’ in October.  We are busy settling in and fixing it up and have dreams of an on-site kitchen in 2022. 

As we step closer toward our vision of creating a region where healthy local food is at the heart of community well-being, we know that it continues to be a difficult time for so many. We continue to work hard and support barrier-free programs that provide dignified access to quality food, engage people in our local food systems and look for ecological solutions to the local and global issues we face.

On Friday, December 17th we will be hosting our second annual Holiday Harvest Fundraiser! From noon until 7:00, you’re invited to take a tour of our new space and enjoy a warm, Holiday Meal to take home, prepared by the chefs of The Farmer’s Kitchen. Enjoy a meal for two or appies for four inspired by the flavours of the season, but be sure to buy your ticket ahead of time so that you're guaranteed a meal: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/214295041237
Program Updates:

Fruit Tree Program

2021 was a challenging year as we faced the realities of climate change with the heat dome in the summer and storms in the fall.  Despite these challenges, the program brought in more early fruit (cherries and plums) than ever before.  We hosted over 134 harvest events, double what we did last year, and expanded our team. We stretched our harvest season into October for the second time ever and along with 142 volunteers, we harvested 18,000 lbs of fruit. 

The Farm Gleaning Program also mobilized volunteers and students of the NIC Sustainable Farming Program to assist at several small-scale local farms this season as well as picked-up and redistributed post-Farmers’ Market produce. The value of produce distributed to vulnerable members of our community through our Good Food Box and Hot Meal programs via Farm Gleaning was $6305. We would like to thank BC Gaming and United Way for supporting these programs in 2021.

With the Fruit Tree program’s apples that weren’t of eating quality, we produced 1500 L of Backyard Blend Apple Juice, now available for sale. Our 100% local, pasteurized Apple Juice can be purchased for $20 a box at our Tin Town warehouse - 2342B Rosewall Crescent, Courtenay from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Mondays and Wednesdays. Come by to pick up your box or send us an email to arrange for pick-up another time.

Urban Agriculture

Throughout the summer, Urban Agriculture Programs continued to pass valuable food growing and ecological knowledge on to marginalized populations and the greater community. This was done through a combination of formal learning and mentorship opportunities within the program. We hosted Grow Food Everywhere Online Workshops, In-Person Garden Workshops and a three-part Backyard Chicken Coop Tour, all while providing ongoing opportunities for community connection and support.

This Summer and Fall, the School Garden Program supported eight community schools in building gardens and enhancing food production and educational opportunities within. The Program also provided workshops for students on garden literacy and supported teachers in garden maintenance. 

Our Vanier Educational Garden was the site of LUSH Valley’s youth programs, which included the Farm & Forage Summer Camp and the Climate Action Training in Regenerative Agriculture. The two-week Summer Camp saw kids aged 6 to 13 adventuring in the garden, starting seeds, planting seedlings and harvesting vegetables, among more wild activities. The Youth Climate Action Training was hosted in partnership with the Comox Youth Climate Council and provided a 4-week paid training for youth aged 15 to 25 to learn skills in permaculture and regenerative agriculture. The program culminated in a community-wide planting event at the Vanier Educational Garden.

New to 2021 was our wildly popular seniors gardening program. This program connected seniors in our community to each other and to youth through a weekly garden meet-up. Seniors also participated in agricultural training and volunteered their time at our school and social housing gardens.

We would like to thank New Horizons for Seniors, TD Friends of the Environment, the City of Courtenay, Farm to Cafeteria and the CVRD for their support of our Urban Agriculture Programs in 2021.

Good Food Box

This year so far, our subsidized and no-cost Good Food Box streams have helped improve access to healthy eating for 480 households (approximately 1200 individuals) in our community through the distribution of 4856 Good Food Boxes. Many of these Boxes have been distributed in collaboration with our community partners, which are invaluable to the success of the program and its broad reach – what we achieve together is far beyond what we could each do individually!

In 2021, we also initiated a pilot project of a Community Good Food Box stream that allows anyone (regardless of financial need) to access nutritious, fresh, and often local produce through LUSH Valley. The Good Food Box is a chance to give back to the community by supporting local farmers and LUSH Valley’s food access programming, while receiving delicious, nutritious food for a good value: it’s a win-win! Read more here about what you’re supporting when you choose to participate in the Good Food Box program.

We’re very pleased to have worked closely with our friends from Kloverdalen Farm, Whitaker Farm, Amara Farm, Siefferts Farm, Ridgewood Farm, Pendleton Farm, Sweet Spread Farm, Rock Bottom Farm, Bates Beach Farm, Shorewolf Farm, Garstin Farm and Tendergreen Farm, who have collectively supplied this program with over $60,000 worth of fruit, veggies, and eggs. For their support, we would like to thank the City of Courtenay, the Town of Comox, Food Centers Canada, BC Gaming, Les Dames, Vancouver Foundation and SPARC BC.

BC Housing: Meal Kits and Gardening Support

From June to October of this year, LUSH Valley has provided 5 sets of 40 Meal Kits each to individuals living at BC Housing's Washington Apartments. Each Meal Kit includes locally-sourced produce, meat and cheese and a recipe card with instructions and guidelines for cooking. LUSH Valley has also been hosting Garden Workshops and providing ongoing support for gardeners in partnership with BC Housing’s People, Plants and Homes Program. Come December, we will be delivering 40 additional Holiday Meal Kits to individuals, in hopes of making their holidays a little brighter.
 
Healthy Student Meal Program

In this program, a team of 12+ volunteers assist in the shopping, packing and distribution of Meal Kits and Healthy Snacks to 16 participating schools each week. With the aid of 25 Indigenous Support Workers, Meal Kits are used to prepare hot meals for upwards of 800 children! As of October 2021, 3 additional schools have enrolled in the program, bringing the total number of participating schools to 19.

This program has operated out of the Lower Filberg, the Comox Valley Curling Club, and most recently, LUSH Valley’s own warehouse facility. Thank you to BC Gaming, Indigenous Education SD71 and the Comox Valley Community Foundation for supporting this program.
 

Hot Meal Program

In March 2020, we launched the Hot Meal Program so that people dealing with isolation or other barriers could have hot and nutritious meals delivered to their homes. So far this year we have cooked and delivered 15,850 meals with the help of 6 community partners and many incredible volunteers. The program has moved 3 times in 2021 and we want to thank the City of Courtenay for their incredible in-kind support. Since September, 2021, service has been continuing at a decreased number of meals per week through the Farmer’s Kitchen Food Truck. We hope that we will one day soon have our own kitchen at our new location to support this program to continue. 

Healthy Foods Programs
Community Kitchens

On October 12, 2021, we launched an eight-week plant-based Community Kitchen Series in partnership with two local chefs and our venue provider, Nature’s Way Farm. New topics included An Introduction to Plant Milks and Cheeses, Vegan Italian and A Plant-Based Charcuterie Board Demo, along with classic themes such as Sourdough Bread Baking and Fermentation: Kimchi, Sauerkraut and Hot Sauce. We also hosted one FoodSafe course each, in the summer and fall of this year.
Healthy Foods Programs
Young Cooks
 

When school started in September, we re-launched our in-person Young Cooks Program at the Cumberland Rec Centre. The first of two seven-week sessions ran from 3:30-5:30 pm on Tuesdays from September 14th to October 26th, 2021. Nine elementary students attended weekly and each made 31 recipes, for a total of 248 student dishes made in the program. The second session is running now, from November 2nd to December 14th and includes all-new recipes, as several students from the first session re-registered in the second. 

On October 25th, we launched our first ever Young Cooks Cooking Club in partnership with Lake Trail Community Education Society. The five-week after-school cooking program is held on Mondays from 3:30-5:00 pm at Lake Trail Community School. The program is free to attend and includes 13 students and an active wait list. The program takes place at Lake Trail but is open to students from all elementary and middle schools in School District 71. We would like to thank BC Gaming for their support of these programs

Food Policy Council Updates:

The goal of the CVFPC is to provide a forum for advocacy and policy development that works towards the creation of a food system that is ecologically sustainable, economically viable and socially just to examine the operation of a local food system and provide ideas and policy recommendations for how it can be improved.

Over the Summer and Fall the Council worked on:

  • Supporting the City of Courtney's Urban Agriculture Bylaws: We can now have yard gate sales and keep hens in almost all municipalities and across the region. We hope the Town of Comox joins in shortly!
  • Sending requests to all Municipalities and SD71 to Endorse the Coalition for Healthy School Food and support a national cost-share Healthy School Food Program: All have now signed on! 
  • Providing all candidates information prior to the Federal Election through an All Candidates Questionnaire on Food Security: Answers from candidates were posted and shared publicly. 
  • Creating a new School Food Subcommittee and Terms of Reference.
  • Hosting an information session for School Food Programs with an Environmental Health Officer.
  • Presenting to the Provincial Budget 2022 Committee: Requesting support for on-site water storage for farmers.
  • Participating in the CVRD Regional Food Hub Feasibility Study as Committee members.
  • Sending two letters to the Town of Comox to support Urban Ag. Bylaws leading up to the Public Hearing.
  • Sending Urban Agriculture questions to the All Candidates Debate for the Town of Comox by-election.
  • Next up, preparing for an upcoming delegation to the CV Emergency Program Planning Committee to talk about planning for Community Food Security. 

Thank-you to the CVRD and VIHA for supporting this work.

Fundraising

 

'Rise Up'

The Island Quilters for Community Awareness generously donated a large fabric art piece entitled Rise Up to LUSH Valley Food Action Society earlier this year. The piece was made by several local artists and reflects the various perspectives on the covid-19 pandemic that has taken our lives by storm for the past year and a half. This artwork focuses on the positive, uplifting moments of the pandemic and was donated to LUSH Valley for our fast and effective response to the urgent food needs of the Comox Valley that were made clear in the pandemic days.


Rise Up is on display at the Local Refillery in Courtenay and raffle tickets are available for purchase! Tickets are $5 each or 6 for $30 and the draw is on January 15th, 2022. You are welcome to stop-by and have a look at the piece within the Refillery’s standard hours of operation, or purchase your raffle tickets online here.
 
Farm to Table Fundraiser
 
In September, 2021, we hosted our first annual Farm to Table Fundraiser at Amara Farm. Overall, the lunch & dinner events were successes - even the weather was calm and clear. Guests arrived at either the seating and enjoyed a 5-course plant-based meal by the incredible chefs of The Farmer’s Kitchen Food Truck.

Our hosts of Amara Farm were gracious and generous. Arzeena Hamir welcomed and grounded us - touching the land where much of the meal was grown. LUSH Valley Board Treasurer Chris Bate gave a land acknowledgement and Call to Action on reconciliation and ecological stewardship before the meal began. 

It was a beautiful opportunity to sit down together after being apart for so long and really enjoy the local abundance of the Valley prepared with such skill and love. We hope to see everyone out again next year! 

Thank You for Your Support
We are thrilled to be working with so many incredible volunteers, supportive partners and generous funders and donors.  2021 continues to be a struggle for many in our community. We take great pride in knowing that our programs help to bring well-being and meaning to people’s lives during this difficult time. We are grateful to have the opportunity and support to do the important work that we do.

If the work we do at LUSH Valley is meaningful to you, please consider supporting us with a monthly or one time donation.

We are extremely grateful to those that support our work, as it would be impossible to do without you! Your generosity makes all the difference.

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LUSH Valley Food Action Society
250-331-0152
admin@lushvalley.org

www.lushvalley.org
PO Box 20008
Courtenay, BC V9N 0A7

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