The Comox Valley 2019 Good Food Box pilot, supported by SPARC BC was a 10-week program delivering organic, local produce to 40-50 low-income seniors (weekly participation varied slightly) via four community partners.

The participants were:

  • tenants at BC Housing’s Washington Inn
  • tenants at John Howard’s ‘The Station’ (our community’s new supportive housing complex)
  • participants of Wachiay Friendship Centres Elders program, and
  • Elder members of the K’ómoks First Nation.

The ‘Good Food Box’ program provided regular delivery of high quality produce. It was extremely popular with participating community partners; the consistent quantities allowed community participants to rely on the service, and the high quality and value of the produce gave them something to look forward to each week.

In many cases the deliveries were spread out market style, especially where the distribution allowed for a gathering of participants – Wachaiy Friendship Centers’ Elders lunch program for example.

In other cases, as described below, for participants who had difficulties leaving their homes, final distribution to each individual was through a trusted volunteer member of that community. This was done with the K’ómoks First Nation and select tenants at the social and supportive housing locations. It worked well to not have to have a ‘one size fits all ‘model of distribution.

Due to the strength of our existing relationships with community partners and Amara Farm, we were able to role out the program extremely quickly and found a simple model of distribution that met the needs of each of the four partners.

Deliveries of produce and logistics of delivery and distribution were the role of our LUSH Valley gleaning program coordinator, James Mckerricher. By using the existing gleaning systems and vehicle we were able to supplement the good food box with other produce available through the LUSH Valley Fruit Tree Program and Farm Gleaning Program.

Given the current scale of LUSH’s distribution efforts, having a greater diversity of product delivered made more efficient use of our vehicle and the coordinators time. The Good Food Box dovetailed extremely well into current LUSH programs, existing partnerships ,and even recent community research, which produced a report entitled: ‘Food Security, Housing, Poverty and Local Food; Closing the Loop in the Comox Valley’). Discussions pointed strongly to the need of such programs in our community. These factors made the implementation seamless and the value clear to everyone involved.

Feedback from participating community partners was gathered weekly. There was some discussion on what was used most often out of the box and for what. Feedback from participants to the farmer went through the program coordinator. Working with a single farm, Amara Farm and farmer – Arzeena Hamir- ensured simple communications.

From LUSH’s perspective this program was easy to adopt mid-season, though for the sake of crop planning more advanced notice would be better for farmers. It would be nice to offer participation from a number of local farmers rather than just one. We are currently working towards a local food distribution system (funding pending) and have developed great relationships with local farmers through our Farm Gleaning program (which trades farm labour for excess produce).

Barb Whyte,our community connector with the K’ómoks First Nation, volunteered her time to ensure that the produce was delivered to selected individuals who demonstrated the most need in her community. She notes health as a primary deciding factor when selecting community members to receive her deliveries. Working with Barb is a joy, she demonstrates deep empathy for those suffering from health issues, and she describes in vivid detail the health victories that fresh fruits and vegetables bring to her community.

The pilot was a big success for our community, and one of the most seamless programs I have ever seen unfold! This project could not have been more timely – with all the right partnerships, staff, infrastructure and community interest in place – this was our next logical step. We are very grateful to the support of SPARC BC for making this highly fitting and beneficial program possible.

Maurita Prato, Executive Director and James Mckerricher, Program Coordinator