Groups working to improve food security in the Strathcona region are getting a $90,000 boost from the United Way this year.
The funds will go towards the continued operation of the Strathcona Food Hub, which is a group of community partners who collaborate to improve on and make positive change to food systems in the region.
The Hub defines food security as; everyone having equitable access to food that is affordable, culturally preferable, nutritious and safe; everyone has the agency to participate in, and to influence food systems; and food systems that are resilient, ecologically sustainable, socially just, and honour Indigenous food sovereignty as a priority.
“Working together with local organizations and First Nations communities over the past year, the Strathcona Regional Community Food Hub is successfully improving food security across Central and Northern Vancouver Island,” says Alžbeta Sabová, Food Security Initiative Manager with United Way British Columbia. “We want to build on this great work, which is why United Way British Columbia is pleased to announce our continued investment for 2022/23 to ensure all people have access to the food they need.”
The Food Hub received funding from the United Way last year as well, which was used to hire program coordinator Madison Stewart. Two of the main goals of the hub was to improve Indigenous food systems and emergency food preparedness.
Stewart highlighted two programs: a new butchering facility for the Ehattisaht First Nation, which would allow “their members to be able to safely butcher locally caught elk and maybe eventually have that turn into a social enterprise for the Nation.”
Another program was the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen, which has seen a 25 per cent increase over last year in use.
“Peers that are unsheltered and often dealing with substance use are paid to come via honouraria and work for a few hours doing dishes or certain other things. It’s a pretty cool program and it’s growing as well, Stewart said. “We’re seeing that the peers really appreciate the structure that the volunteering gives them, and a bit of a cash pay out as well.”
Through the coordinator, the hub was able to secure an additional $100,000 in funding which was used for a variety of projects including increased food storage for the Gold River food bank, the Cortes Island Meals on Wheels program, the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation’s Traditional Knowledge Keeper position, and the Greenways Land Trust’s Good Food Box hamper program.
This year Stewart hopes to coordinate with Sayward and Gold River.
“I think the community as a whole has been really supportive… especially with the increase in prices right now,” she said.