Two women holfingup meat as they go through boxes of donated food

First 2 months of ICAN’s food recovery program: almost 1,300 people benefit

In the two months that ICAN’s food recovery program has been in operation, close to 1,300 people have received benefits.  

“Since the beginning of March we’ve distributed 10,408.4 kilos of food, and that has been  distributed to 338 individuals, who were feeding 671 people.  In addition to that, we have been supplying various agencies like Quadra Circle, the Read Island Aging In Place program, the Read Island Community Kitchen. These agencies have been feeding an additional 600 people. In  total, we estimate that this food has provided meals for 1,271 people,” said Ramona Boyle, Coordinator of Quadra ICAN.

Image credit: ‘I have lettuce that needs to be cut before I go on my holiday. Can ICAN you use it? Photo by Toshiyuki IMAI via FLickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

CC: These are separate people, not just meals? 

RB: “We’ve kept track of individuals.” 

“The distributions have been gradually increasing in not only the amount of food that we have to distribute, but also the number and diversity of people who are coming to access the program. So we’re very, very pleased about it. We do need to access more sources of food, so that we can make sure that we are able to provide for everybody that turns up at our distributions.”

“We are still collecting from both Tru Value stores and Amped on Nutrition. Talking to the owner of Amped was really, really interesting because she said that she had wanted to have a business that had  a circular economy.* So she was very happy to be able to send food that was, in many cases, really high quality, organic, gluten-free, vegetarian fare for distribution.” 

“Those three businesses have really been fantastic, but we’re also pursuing a couple of other options for regular donations. Increasingly individuals are coming to us and saying ‘I have excess kale,’ or ‘I have lettuce that needs to be cut before I go on my holiday, can ICAN use it?’ And we are able to pick it up and distribute fresh food. 

“We’re really very happy with the program.”  

“We did have some concerns in the early stages from people who had been dumpster diving, worried that they would no longer have access to food 24 hours a day. To deal with those concerns, we have established one of two community fridges that is located right now in the Cove and it’s stocked 24/7. We’re looking for a location for the second fridge in Heriot Bay, so that we can do the same at this end of the island.” 

CC: have you heard any response from the dumpster divers?

RB: “I know that more of them are showing up for distribution. More importantly, the food is being taken from the community fridge and it’s being taken in small increments. It’s not like somebody is coming in and swooping it all up. It disappears a little bit at a time and then we restock, and that tells us that it is serving a need.”

“They’re also telling us that food continues to end up in the dumpsters at the grocery store. So they’re not completely cut off from their previous supply.” 

CC: Do you happen to know if any of  Quadra Islands ‘at risk’ population are among the recipients? 

RB: “Definitely. I participate in the distributions on both Mondays and Thursdays. Talking to people I know that we have people who are living in the bush. We have people that are living on boats. We have people that are unemployed and dealing with all kinds of health issues. We also have people who you wouldn’t think are in need, but invisible stresses are being placed on the entire population. We are just overwhelmed with the positive response of those  that are coming to get food.”

“They are so happy at the quality of food that they’re getting. Beautiful meat and all kinds of dairy, bread and foods that they could not afford otherwise. 

“We’re hitting quite a range of the population. We have very young people coming, and also seniors. We have people who are feeding up to eight people when they come to collect from distribution and those that are feeding just themselves. All of them are saying that they feel good about keeping food out of the landfill.”

“I think this  is a program that is serving an important need in the community for all kinds of people.  This is not primarily about poverty reduction. It’s about creating a more circular economy on the island, so that waste is not removed from the island and, instead. is used here.”

“There is room for expansion and collaboration with other programs to make sure that more food is diverted into the hands of people and farmers instead of being wasted. And that is a win-win for everybody.”

CC: So what do you need? 

RB: “Right now we need businesses on the island that have excess food to contact us so that we can collect, sort and distribute it. For example, I know that one of the kayak ventures approached us and said that when they come back from tours, they bring crates of food. The guides are supposed to sort as to what can be used for their own cooking and what can go into the compost, but most of the guides get a little bit tired and end up pitching it all in the compost. Crates of, for example, lemons and limes that come all the way from Florida and are perfectly edible, are just thrown in the compost. So we’ve said, ‘Please call us. We’ll pick it up, we’ll distribute it and make sure that it gets into hands of people that can use it. Or if it’s not edible for humans, for farmers to use as animal feed or for composting.’”

*correction: This story originally contained a reference to the Quadra Island Food Bank not accepting food donations from Amped on Nutrition. The Food Bank informed Cortes Currents this was a misunderstanding of their policy, and they have spoken with the owner of Amped on Nutrition to clarify the matter.

Top image credit: Dina Hanson and Heather Wright with some of the donated food – Photo by dood Turner

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