Everyone talks about the weather but no one ever does anything about it. It was the frustration found in that kind of sentiment that was the spark that instigated food sharing in the West Boundary in February 2010.
Vivien Browne said that a friend came to her with news of someone in the community who was hungry. “She had helped him for a while—then she had run out of money so she couldn’t help,” Browne said. Six community members quickly became a dozen and the group known as Boundary Food Sharing formed with a five-point mission:
• Sharing with those in need,
• Neighbours sharing with each other from different growing zones,
• Educating how to process/store food,
• Encouraging the 100-mile diet, and
• Exploring year-round production.
In their inaugural year they were supplementing the diets of over 60 people every month. A community garden sprang up in Rock Creek and a lending library of gardening books was established.
Browne says they help many single older people. People who live on fixed incomes, whose situation is made worse by power rate increases.
Since 2010 the group has metamorphosed in the West Boundary Sustainable Foods and Resources Society (FAR) and food sharing now exists under the FAR umbrella.
Browne says it is most often someone who comes to her and says they have a friend or neighbour who needs some help. “Rarely will someone come directly to me to ask for help,” she said. “Most feel very embarrassed and humiliated by the process of the food bank and many single, older people are not used to being in their situation; they are used to being volunteers in their community.”
They also look for ways to recover food that would be thrown away; such as food from gardens that are not needed,
Grow a Row programs and permission to access fruit trees on private lands.
One limitation the group faces is limited access to commercial kitchens. They cost money to rent and the group has little money—even though zero dollars goes into administration. “Every penny and every ounce of food is shared,” Browne said.
They also look for opportunities to buy food in bulk—things like onions, carrots, etc.
But the things that are needed the most are those that they do not get from food banks—fruits, vegetables and proteins.
“Those are the things that affect the brain and behaviours,” she said. Browne offered the opinion that the prejudice that the poor often face is in some respects caused by poor diet. “You just can’t do without fuel,” she said. “We don’t feel the same when we don’t eat the right things. One can become depressed very quickly on a poor diet and it has nothing to do with psychology it is to do with nutrition and brain chemistry.”
“People don’t understand that if you go through a year of very poor nutrition it will create horrible problems – including mental problems.”
Many groups and individuals have come to forward help too. Discover Rock Creek has purchased an awning for food sharing to use at the market this year, and each spring food sharing work bees help prepare seed tray with vegetables to go into gardens throughout the West Boundary and people are providing space in their private greenhouses too.
Food sharing hopes to participate in gleaning projects in the Okanagan; where farmers allow groups to come in and salvage produce that would otherwise go to waste.
Browne is trying to document apple trees that can be accessed this fall—food sharing will get one-third, picker gets one-third and owner gets one-third.
Seasonal help is always needed in community gardens.
She says that food is only the tip of the iceberg though. “Mostly people are hurt. We all need love and kindness and a little bit of help and TLC.”
Browne grew up in England. She was born after the war. “Where if you didn’t grow your food you died,” she said. “There was no green grocer— we used to go on our push bikes three miles with our compost. We grew organically because we couldn’t afford the fertilizer.”
There are many ways the community can help with the food sharing initiative. Call Browne (250-528-7433) or any member of the FAR society (online at farsociety.com). A monthly donation or a gift of a gas card would be greatly appreciated; as would people coming forward if they have any vegetables or fruit trees that could go to the food recovery program.
While medical transportation programs exist people also have problems getting to the food bank once a month and Browne is always looking for willing people to do some driving.
“I make sure that when I go to someone’s door I never, ever go to their door in order to change them. If I am going there to change them then I shouldn’t be on their doorstep.”
A local resident struggling to get by on a fixed income once told Browne,” You people are over there— I am over here—I want to be over there but I can’t because whenever I try you push me away.”
“You have to keep your passion because it is only people with passion who will make a difference,” Browne said.
“Yes we have poor people; we also have a road system but we don’t close the road system because there are drunk drivers.”
Browne urges people to stop and think before they judge and to give out love, kindness and tolerance wherever they go.