The first shoots of a new potato plant pushing up through the soil

The Garden Share and Food Recovery Programs on Quadra Island

Quadra ICAN started up two food security initiatives last week. 

The Garden Share program is designed to increase the amount of food grown on Quadra Island. 

Marc Doll, a local farmer and one of the candidates during the last election, said Vancouver Island grew about half of its food prior to the Second World War. He believes this statistic is currently closer to 4% or 5%.

ICAN Coordinator Ramona Boyle explained that this is the Garden Share program’s second year.  

Ramona Boyle, Coordinator of Quadra ICAN

“What it does is to create a list of people who have farms or properties that they would like to see growing food, but maybe don’t have the ability to do that on their own.  We match them with people who would like to grow food but don’t have the space or the property to do that. Last year, I think we had about a dozen matches. We would like to double that, to increase food supply and food resiliency on the island,” she said.

This year they have a new coordinator. Rena Patrick, who many Cortes Radio listeners  will remember as Hurricane Rena, former host of the Homegrown Show.

“We know that there are an increasing number of older property owners who are struggling to manage gardens that they have established over many years and are just finding it a little bit too much for themselves. So we expect that this is going to be a growing trend.”

ICAN’s food recovery program officially starts up on Monday, March 20,  but they have already begun distribution. 

RB: “I think the real root of the program is that we know that there are people who are struggling, who don’t look like they’re struggling because they have a roof over their head. They are functioning, but it’s getting harder and harder for them. 

According to the 2016 census 230 Quadra Island households, or roughly 20% of the population needed to use more than 30% of their income for rent or mortgage payments. This means there is often less money for other needs, like groceries.

RB: “Food will be distributed twice a week, in Heriot Bay and the Cove, at different times to try and reach more people. The food so far is being collected from both Tru Value Food stores and from Amped on Nutrition. On Monday we collected 116.2 kilos of food and we distributed it to individuals who told us that food would feed 50 people.  We also distributed to agencies who estimated that the food would provide meals for 125 people. So that’s in total 175 people who will receive at least one meal from the food that was distributed on Monday.”

“We are hoping to be able to reach people beyond Quadra, including Cortes and Read.” 

“Read has a program called ‘Aging in Place’ and they took some of the food to prepare meals for people that are struggling.”

CC: Are you in contact with the Cortes Island Food Bank? 

RB: “No, we have  put a call out in the Bird’s Eye to invite agencies to register with us.  When they do that, we will give them priority for food distribution because obviously they have the infrastructure, the volunteers and are reaching more people. If Cortes agencies want to be a part of that they just need to contact me and we’ll talk about what kind of food they need and then we will set that aside for them.”

CC: Do you have any thoughts of going beyond that to Sonora, Maurelle or any of the other islands?

RB: “For now, we’re still in the ‘let’s look and see how this works’ phase.  We’re not sure,  how much food we’re going to be collecting on a regular basis.”

“Obviously, the first collection is not really indicative  of a general pattern because the stores stockpiled food for our collection. They did say to expect that the amount that we collected would not be that much every week. However, we’re also looking to increase the sources of food beyond the two grocery stores and ‘Amped on Nutrition.’ We want to incorporate the resorts on the island, other stores and restaurants that may have excess food that will be usable either by people or by animals.  Rather than  go too far, too fast, we just want to take it slow, see how much food we accumulate, and then we will be in a position to expand if we have excess food.”

“One of the reasons that we felt this project was so important was this hidden demographic of people that are struggling to make ends meet, but aren’t going to be dumpster diving.” 

“The stores have unofficially had a program in place for many years where they put food that is edible in an accessible way in the dumpsters so that people could access it. We certainly have had some expressions of concern from those dumpster divers that our program was going to be depriving them of that resource. We feel that the program is going to, first of all, provide a safer mechanism for accessing that food for the people who had been doing so before. It’s going to expand the accessibility to those who would never be dumpster diving.  The 90 year old who’s struggling to live on a pension cheque is not going to be crawling into a dumpster to get food. Nor would they necessarily ask for help to get food. If they are given the opportunity to come and shop for free food,  to pick what they like to eat and what they are able to cook and prepare,  they will access it.”

“Anecdotally we have heard that there are more and more people living in the bush on Quadra, and more that are couch surfing or are in precarious housing situations. We all know that  there’s a housing crisis across the province,  but the islands are particularly hard hit because we have such a limited pool of housing options, particularly for minimum wage workers that are critical for our tourist economy, for our grocery stores,  the gas station,  the builders. All of  the small businesses that operate on the island have a real struggle to find housing for their workers, particularly seasonal workers.”

“I would like to encourage businesses to register with us. We will arrange to pick up from a business whenever is convenient for them and we will then sort whatever they give us into what is usable by human beings, what can be fed to animals,  what can be composted, and we will also remove what is recyclable.”

“On Monday, for example, we ended up with half a bucket of animal feed, half a bucket of recyclables that are  diverted, as well  as all of the food.  “We want more people to think about what they’re putting in the garbage and if they feel like it might be usable by people or animals, get in touch with us and we’ll arrange to pick it up.”

“It was really quite encouraging to see how many people did make it, even though it was a very last minute pop-up distribution.”

The food recovery program officially starts up next week

“Distributions are happening  in the parking lot of the Legion on Monday at 1 PM and behind the library in the Cove at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon.”

Top image credit: Close-up of a new potato plant pushing up through the soil Photo by Ivan Radic via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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