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Projects in Powell River enhance food security for individuals and the community

Lift Community Services programs focus on the food insecure in region
COORDINATING EFFORTS: Lift Community Services’ food programs help a wide variety of community members, and here [from left], food program worker Joanne Bighead, food program manager Adriana Virtue and worker Isaiah Sweet are at the Community Resource Centre, where the kitchen facility is being renovated to become a food hub.

Lift Community Services is active in coordinating efforts in the community to assist food security.

According to Adriana Virtue, Lift food program manager, the food security project started in 2006 and project activities focus on enhancing food security for individuals and the community as a whole through promoting awareness and supporting the development of local food production. Current focus is on food insecure communities and resource management by creating food skills programming with the aim of increasing intake of whole foods for community members facing food security barriers, while reducing waste, added Virtue.

Virtue said Lift is a non-profit organization that works to reduce social inequities by providing support and advocacy, and the vision welcomes inclusion, diversity and an affirming community that is free from poverty and is full of heart.

Within her realm of food security and food programs are the vulnerable community members who are served out of the Community Resource Centre (CRC), support for the supportive housing complex, Family Place, Immigrant Services and all of the community support programs that are happening at Lift.

Virtue said there is currently a renovation taking place at the CRC. She said the kitchen is being renovated through grant funding and that space is being turned into a food hub.

“Powell River is going to have a food hub active in our community in the Community Resource Centre,” said Virtue. “We are going to have a dehydrator, and 10-burner commercial stove top, convection ovens, dishwashing facilities and lots of counter space. We also have a mixer and we are going to get a meat grinder and we have a walk-in cooler.

“That is really exciting and really incredible.”

Virtue said in that kitchen space, there will be a kitchen program, which is a full-circle connection for people and food. She said food will be made for the different programs that Lift operates for people who need it.

She said inside of that, the organization operates The Nook, which is a social enterprise that has operated in Powell River Public Library. She said that through coffee and food, there is a vehicle for social change, where youth and individuals in the community can be a part of serving other people in the community and creating a margin of profit that pays them to do that.

Partnerships create connections

Virtue said there is also the good food box, which is a program that has been community-run for the last 15 years. Her program took it on at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with partnership in Tla’amin Nation.

“We partnered with Tla’amin for the first three months of that program and when they had their COVID-19 event happen, we split over to our Family Place location, so we’re still operating out of there,” said Virtue. “We are producing about 130 boxes a month of fresh fruit and vegetables that are going from our sort, which is done by peers and youth, into the hands of our community partners, who are then getting that to our community members who are potentially experiencing poverty. It’s serving a range and a diverse group of individuals.”

Virtue also partakes in a food policy and access connection group. She said once a month, community leaders meet to talk about food access and also food policy. The group is open to all communities and is in the process of writing a letter to City of Powell River council to suggest and request the city put money from the COVID-19 response fund into some food policy future framework connections.

Virtue also collaborates with School District 47, working inside of the explore program and she also supports the food studies skills and design course.

Virtue said a lot of the food her program is making is from rescued food. She said the program takes food from grocery stores, in partnership with the local food bank, that is no longer saleable and makes items for community members who need that food. She said they are serving 80 to 100 meals Monday through Thursday at the CRC and 40 meals to the supportive housing unit, helping deliver much-needed food to those who need it.

The CRC is undertaking a visioning exercise and looking for feedback to ensure it is responding to true community needs in the best way it can. Here is the link to the survey: