SSICS programs feed people in need

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Salt Spring Island Community Services’ food rescue program is looking to raise money over the holiday season to purchase fresh healthy ingredients for their meal programs.

As the holidays come around, people often think of the food bank as a place to give back. However, other food security initiatives like the Harvest Program and its food waste collection program Second Harvest allow donations to go a long way toward feeding people on the island. Second Harvest was started in August 2017 with the goal of diverting green waste from grocery stores, markets and farms out of the landfill.

Simone Cazabon, the coordinator for the Harvest food security program, said that donating to the organization can help provide people with good wholesome food in times of need.

“If people want to donate to more meal programs, then they can donate to the Second Harvest, which will help us get more food from the grocery stores, and to pay for our emissions and pay for our costs for our fridge,” she said. “Some people just pick up random cans of beans, but if they give some money to Second Harvest we can shop for specific ingredients that we will be able to feed 30 people with. It just allows us to have more flexibility, better ingredients and fresher ingredients.”

Second Harvest provides food for the various other Harvest food security programs on the island. The food is picked up from grocery stores, the Tuesday market when it is in season and from local farmers who have surplus produce. It is then distributed through the Harvest Kitchen Cafe, the shelter program and community fridges.

“We have a waste culture and this is one step where we’re starting to deal with our own waste properly,” Cazabon said. “A couple thousand pounds of food is creating tons of movement and we’re not even at full capacity.”

The program is distinct from the food bank, but both fall under the food security umbrella at SSICS. Since Second Harvest’s inception, the program has collected over 1,000 pounds of food that would have otherwise been thrown away.

“There’s nothing wrong with [the food], other than it being slightly bruised or having a best before date within a few days,” said Cazabon. “So instead of throwing it into the landfill or feeding it to animals, it is rescued as food to be consumed by humans.”

Some days, the volunteers come back with a full van of food. On others they come home with nothing. A recent lettuce scare left them with slim pickings at the local grocery stores, but they were able to rescue a few pounds of carrots, half a cabbage, some onions and a box of limes. Volunteers Max Haffner and Jim Halicki are glad to help out. The food they collect goes to feed people who would otherwise not be able to feed themselves.

“I like to help out people in need,” Haffner said. “I’m helping people who can’t get the food they want.”

Those interested in donating to the program can do so at harvestsaltspring.ca. The website also has a portal for people interested in volunteering, or those who have ideas about promoting food security on the island.

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