Helping hands that aim to alleviate food poverty from Rossland to Trail and the Beaver Valley, have swiftly and successfully modified their program in the midst of social distancing measures so that food security can be maintained for those who need it most, despite the challenges faced by COVID-19.
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The Lower Columbia Community Kitchen is movement designed to build on the premise that food has power; the power to inspire, nurture, develop new skills, promote healthier lifestyles and bring people together.
The initiative was on the edge of launching a 12-week community inclusion program, with grants from Columbia Basin Trust and Kootenay Savings Credit Union, when the pandemic was announced and dramatically paused it.
In a sharp turnaround, coordinators successfully changed the structure and logistics of the essential service to create a variation of ‘meals on wheels’ to ensure deliverables could be met and strict safety protocols adhered to.
Organizers then quickly amassed an army of supporters who rallied round with additional funding and wholesale discounts to cover the various costs associated with equipment, delivery packaging, cooking ingredients and co-ordination.
“Everything just happened so quickly. We had the seed of an idea for changing the program one day and then by the next morning we were ready to put it into action and had sourced suitable kitchens to make it operational,” says Morag Carter, Skills Centre executive director.
“The local community has been absolutely amazing, with businesses and individuals jumping straight in to help and support us.”
Commercial kitchen facilities in the Trail United Church, Fruitvale Memorial Hall, and St. Andrew’s United Church in Rossland are housing the program.
Each community kitchen costs around $7,500 to run for 20 weeks, feeding some 18 family units and individuals in each area of operation.
Under the revamped model of operation, low cost nutritious meals will be cooked and distributed by coordinators and volunteers once a week with ingredients sourced from food banks and supermarket specials.
The program is currently financed and supported by Columbia Basin Trust, Kootenay Savings Community Foundation, Teck Metals, Rotary Club of Trail and Seven Summits Centre for Learning.
The Lower Columbia Community Kitchen program, provided by the Greater Trail Skills Centre, is free for qualifying low-income families and individuals.
Local food banks have been instrumental in helping coordinators reach low income people who are food insecure.