Community Connections Revelstoke Society plans to break ground on a new food bank garden at their Community Outreach Building location in Revelstoke after receiving funding to bring the project to life.
Non-perishable foods are often the first thing that comes to mind when we think about food bank donations. While they are important, providing those in need with fresh foods has become a major focus for food banks, says a representative for Food Banks Canada.
Canadian food banks estimate that 40 percent of foods distributed are fresh. Community Outreach and Development Co-Director at Community Connections, Melissa Hemphill, says it is probably closer to 60 percent at the Revelstoke Food Bank because food is purchased and donated by community members and local businesses through the Food Recovery Program.
The Food Recovery Program has helped the Revelstoke Food Bank meet the demand for fresh food, but Hemphill says the effort goes beyond keeping the shelves stocked.
“When clients know that food is grown, specifically for them in mind, it carries a different value for the clients receiving that food,” says Hemphill. “It’s not just cast off, it’s not just the stuff that fell off the truck that flipped over, it is intentionally created and grown, for them to nurture them and support their well-being, and that’s super meaningful.”
Take to Heart Mill has hosted the food bank garden in past years. Hemphill says the garden served as a fantastic trial run to learn the ropes, staffing needs and the impact of fresh products on food bank clients.
A grant of $23,969 from Loblaw and Food Banks Canada to boost fresh food capacity will go towards garden equipment, greenhouse equipment, food preserving equipment and some staff funding.
Funding applied for by the City of Revelstoke as part of the 2022 Poverty Reduction Planning and Action funding program will also go to the construction of the new garden. The Union of B.C Municipalities (UBCM) grant awarded to the City of Revelstoke for $30,077 is slated for construction, landscaping, growing beds and a gathering area in the new Food Bank Garden.
The garden has been on the society’s wish list since purchasing the outreach building in 2020. Their plans for the garden include food production and waste management for the food bank, such as rainwater collection and composting. Hemphill says the primary goal of the garden is to create a welcoming space for clients to gather, share a conversation or a meal and work on the garden.
“Just as a place to come together because we recognize that a number of our clients at the food bank, a big reason that they come, or come as early as they do, is about social connections and meeting up with people and in similar walks of life,” Hemphill says. “So creating a space where people can meet and gather is an important priority for us. It’s limited space, so we know that the food production that we can do is limited; it’s more about doing it together and for it to be a learning place and a place for people to come together.”
Hemphill says the garden space will be split into different zones. The space will be populated with garden beds and a gathering space with seating and tables. If funding allows, they plan to have a tool shed and greenhouse to extend the growing season. She says they are re-configuring the garden plans to fit the funding they’ve received and hope to break ground in the springtime.