Youths’ Extra produce Program helps feed island

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By MARCIA JANSEN

DRIFTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR

October is the month that we celebrate a successful harvest of crops. While lots of people are preparing for lavish Thanksgiving dinners, others are struggling daily to put a nutritious meal on the table.

LEAP Kids, a community-service, project-based education program, has a goal to feed those in need this fall.

Do you have apples that you can’t pick? Too many beetroots, squashes or kale? The LEAP Kkids (Learning Through Experiential Authentic Processes) are happy to take them off your hands or land.

“Every year we take on projects that are pitched to us by members of our community,” said Sarah Etherington, coordinator of the program. “The projects have to benefit the community, or the earth, and it is a bonus if they benefit both. Last year we built a greenhouse for Little Red Preschool, and now the kids voted for a project to recover excess food from farms.”

The project is driven by the kids.

“They do the harvesting, choose recipes, make labels and do all the cooking and fundraising. It is integrated, hands-on, real-world learning, while doing something good for the community. We know that food insecurity is a growing problem locally. For this project we’ve partnered up with Salt Spring Harvest and they will distribute the food to those in need.”

Five different farms have donated excess fruit and vegetables so far.

“We already have a lot of apples, but we take what we can get. This week we will be making apple pies, crumbles and apple sauce for Thanksgiving, but we will continue to make meals, like soups and stews, in the coming months.”

Martin Mongard, youth worker at Salt Spring Island Community Services, pitched the project.

“I was inspired by the time of the year,” said Mongard, who lets the LEAP Kids use the kitchen at the Core Inn for this project. “The orchards are full of fruit, and sometimes it doesn’t get picked because the owners are elderly or they just have too much. It is so sad that all that amazing food is going to waste. That’s when I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if youth, with all their energy, come to help and pick the fruit and use it to make pies and apple sauce.’”

Salt Spring Island Community Services has several food programs to avoid food waste. Second Harvest, for example, collects food that is over its “best before” date, and fruit and vegetables that have a bruise or otherwise don’t sell, from Country Grocer, Thrifty Foods, Natureworks, Barb’s Bakery, the Tuesday Farmers’ Market and local farms.

“We think that Salt Spring Island is so rich with those big properties and huge mansions,” said Mongard. “But a growing amount of people, especially since the pandemic, are struggling to make ends meet and with all kinds of problems, like mental health issues, as a result. That’s why it is so important that those programs are in place, and the LEAP Kids project is a welcome addition.”

Have excess fruit or vegetables in your garden or orchard? Contact Sarah Etherington at sarahetherington826@gmail.com or 250-221-8986.

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