We live in an agriculturally rich region where traditions converge to create a sophisticated local food culture. One simply has to wander through the Farmers’ Market to experience the smells, tastes, and textures of our valley’s abundance. We’re always greeted with enthusiasm when we deal with our local food producers, and to help ensure that our very own foods are utilized, handled, promoted, and enjoyed to their fullest extent, we have LUSH Valley Food Action Society.
Good food, sustainably produced and accessible to everyone is, in a nutshell, how we define food security. Food security is LUSH Valley’s focus. Healthy food programs, fresh food distribution, as well as education, advocacy, affiliation, and outreach are ways in which the organization realizes its goals. The Comox Valley loves to support all kinds of food production innovations and is exactly the kind of encouraging environment that feeds LUSH Valley’s inspiration.
LUSH’s Executive Director Maurita Prato explains their Fruit Tree Program:
“LUSH organizes teams of community volunteers to pick local fruit (and sometimes veggies) across the region that would otherwise go to waste. The fruit is then split three ways: a third to volunteers, a third to fruit tree owners/stewards, and a third to social service agencies. When we have extra fruit that we can’t distribute, we bring it to Blue Moon Cidery and they turn it into yummy cider. It is a real win-win situation. Last year with the help of 136 volunteers, we harvested and distributed an amazing 58000 lbs of fruit and had fun doing it! This year the Peninsula Co-op is supporting us with the purchase of gas and supplies to run the project.”
A portion of the fruit acquired by LUSH will become part of their community canning workshops. Programs like Young Cooks, Community Kitchens, Hot Meals, Dad’s Night Out, and Food E-Academy are all designed to get locals interested in healthy food handling and local food systems.
And with help from the Comox Valley Community Foundation, LUSH is introducing their Mobile Community Cooler. How cool is that? Built by volunteer Gord Tooker and beautified by Melinda Timm, the mobile cooler will help to ensure the produce picked remains fresh and available year round to those who need it. You may see the mobile cooler at the Wachiay Friendship Centre where it will be parked when it isn’t on the road delivering deliciousness to our community.
Advocacy and policy are a big part of the LUSH’s focus. As a Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) food security hub, they work with other hubs across the island to share ideas about regional food security.
“Last year we worked with the City of Courtenay to survey city residents regarding urban agriculture policy,” says Maurita. “We asked people if they would like to have chickens in their backyards, and allow yard gate sales and beekeeping in the city. The overwhelming answer to these questions was “Yes”.
If you’re eager to support, volunteer, or learn more about LUSH, they have a website and Facebook page. Because of the work these people—our growers, producers, and community partners—do, we have a healthy and vital relationship with food here in the Valley.