In March 2020, like many other organizations, Cowichan Green Community (CGC) was trying to adapt to all the changes that were occurring at the time. Fortunately, we were busy helping those in need by having a new program put in place and maintaining our other programs that help our community.
Residents of Vancouver Island experience the highest rate of severe food insecurity than any other region in British-Columbia, affecting almost one in 25 households. Cowichan Regions community organizations experience a high demand for hamper meal programs. This situation existed before COVID-19, but has now worsened.
Cowichan Green Community was asked by the City of Duncan to implement an Emergency Food Access Task Force to help mitigate the immediate food demands that occurred as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are 25 organizations who immediately jumped into contributing to the Task Force, and who have been meeting weekly since its reception.
During June 2020, member organizations including Victoria Foundation, Community Food Centers Canada, Second Harvest, Food Banks BC, and First West Credit Union of the Taskforce provided 8,265 meals, approximately 4,700 food hampers, and about $17,000 in grocery store gift cards or food coupons.
We also support the Kin Park Youth Urban Farm which is a youth-led urban agriculture demonstration site and working farm, based on the principles of permaculture and organic agriculture. Our goal with this program is to train young people on how to grow food and manage a small business; provide increased access to locally produced food in a sustainable manner, and deliver educational programs to community members of all ages on various aspects of urban agriculture.
The reFRESH Cowichan storefront is a warm and inviting space where the whole community can benefit from healthy, affordable foods like fresh produce, frozen meals, dehydrated snacks, dry goods, herbs & spices, and a line of value-added products at accessible prices. reFRESH stands for: Food Recovery Social-Enterprise Hub. Expanding on the work of CGC’s food recovery project, the newly re-branded store offers a dignified and inclusive shopping experience made possible by the generosity of food donors and partners such as Thrifty Foods, Country Grocer, Save-On-Foods, etc.
Revenue generated via the reFRESH Cowichan storefront covers ongoing program costs like transportation, training/job creation, and facility rentals. Operating as a social enterprise, reFRESH Cowichan offers products and services to generate revenue that allows the food recovery program to continue fulfilling our mandate of increasing community access to healthy, low-cost foods while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by keeping good food out of the landfill.
The Garden Education Center is a three-acre organic community farm located beside Somenos Creek on the ancestral territory of the Quw’utsun Nation. The Garden Ed Center is home to a plant nursery, specializing in native and medicinal plants and vegetable seedlings. It is a place to purchase plants that bring restoration to the region as well as the body. We focus on education through welcoming volunteers, hosting workshops, and gardening alongside the community.
Also on the site is the Ross Wristen Inclusion Garden, a communally tended market garden that is set up to make gardening more comfortable, inclusive, and accessible. In addition to our communal garden, we offer individual garden plots and raised, wheelchair-accessible planter boxes for independent gardening.
All these programs are put in place so our mission, which is to cultivate food, community, and resilience can be accomplished. Help us be a part of it. For more information, you can visit our website (cowichangreencommunity.org) or give us a call at 250.748.8506.
- Ariel Bernatchez,
Food Security Administrator,
Cowichan Green Community