April 15, 2020 — Notes from our Executive Director, Maurita Prato

Hot Meal Program – We have secured a commercial kitchen and hired a chef to support this initiative. We have already cooked and delivered 700 meals to the vulnerable sector and froze another 200 for later distribution.

Good Food Box (healthy hamper) delivery program, launched on April 8th from an undisclosed warehouse location. (Will be deliveries only.) Hampers include a week’s worth of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and eggs plus canned and dry goods. Completed 90 deliveries for the first two days. (No deliveries on Good Friday.) We are planning for 250 deliveries the week of April 20 with the goal scaling to 1,000 weekly deliveries in May, once we have the system, staff/volunteer and funding capacity in place. Food orders for both emergency programs are made through distributors and local producers minimizing pressure on local grocery stores.

Feeding School Children & their Families: We received lists from most participating SD71 schools of students and families in need. We started receiving lists of students on Tuesday, April 7th, made deliveries to 43 the next day. The registration for this program is now at roughly 350 families in need and growing. Student First regional school buses and drivers supported half of the deliveries with a driver and bus. They are committed to helping and are finding two buses and drivers to help with deliveries ongoing (possibly more).

BC Fruit and Vegetable + Milk Nutritional Program (a program throughout BC with distribution through SD71 in our region) Food has been redirected to our Good Food Box, for distribution to students and families.

Volunteer Engagement: Organized volunteer call center to contact families prior to delivery, as well as a team of five volunteers who answer the Emergency Food Share Helpline (250-207-HELP). Volunteers are also helping with some deliveries an, hot meal prep and hamper assembly.

Grow Food Everywhere Program: A new Facebook Group focused on gardening and food growing and (working towards) distribution of seeds and soil.

Share the Harvest Community Garden: Currently, to facilitate physical distancing, there is access to beds only, no tool sharing or in-person workshops. We have ordered seeds for a distribution event in May. The first on-line gardening workshop had 25 in attendance. We are working on a garden mentoring program for new growers and planning a local farmers resource sharing and support meeting on April 22.

Healthy Foods Programs: Started two new Facebook Group – Comox Valley Young Cooks and Get Cooking Comox Valley – to start conversations and support at home cooking and food skills building. Working on a series of online classes.

Comox Valley Food Policy Council: Providing guidance to the LUSH Valley Emergency Response. Thinking ahead regarding the possibility of food supply disruptions, policy alternatives and best practices. Continued collaboration with agencies, local governments and supporters across the region.

Other Agencies/Groups Updates:

• Comox Valley Food Bank reopened on April 6th, however, they are limited in terms of taking on new clients and making deliveries.
• Cumberland Food Share started their hamper delivery program.
• K’omoks First Nation has also started a food bank program.
• Community Food Network created across Canada and they are conducting a COVID-19 impacts survey.