JOINING TOGETHER TO FIGHT HUNGER IN THE COMMUNITIES WHERE WE LIVE AND WORK
I wasn't sure what to expect as I drove down to McIntyre Vineyard in Oliver to meet Troy Osborne, Director of Vineyards at Great Estates Okanagan, but as I pulled in, I had a feeling I was about to be in the presence of something special.
The turn into the property unassuming, the dirt road up to the vineyards well-travelled, this was no tourist destination. The McKinney Road property isn't home to a tasting room, or a gift store, there is no public viewing platform. And while it does contribute to the company's comprehensive portfolio, my reason for being there was to visit the home of the Food Bank Community Garden.
Now in its fourth year, the Community Garden was an initiative developed with the sole purpose of working to fight hunger and giving back to the local community. After discussions with the local food bank, it was apparent that the greatest challenge facing people in need was access to fresh, healthy, local food.
Great Estates Okanagan, part of Arterra Wines Canada, includes brands such as See Ya Later Ranch, Black Sage Vineyard, Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Sumac Ridge, Steller's Jay, Sun Rock Vineyards, and Nk'Mip Cellars. They came together to dedicate 3 acres of land to the program, enabling them to plant, manage, and donate large quantities of produce to the Summerland, Oliver, and Penticton Food Banks.
Every May, a team of more than 120 volunteers and employees come together to plant potatoes, carrots, onions, squash, beets, and more. Come fall, the collaborative hosts an event to harvest the produce ready for delivery to the South Okanagan organizations.
Beyond the generous support of one of Canada’s leading wine distributors, the initiative has truly become a community effort. Local store, TRU Building Centre, donates all the seed, Growers Supply Co. donates the mulch, and to date, they have donated 89,424 lbs of fresh produce to the community. This year, they are on track to break the 100,000 lb mark, continuing the ongoing hunger fight in the communities where they live and work.
AWARENESS THROUGH EDUCATION
One of the recipients of the initiative, The Salvation Army Penticton Community Food Bank, feeds approximately 1,000 individuals each month. Often their clientele is dealing with complex illnesses, chronic health issues and injury, or facing increased and unfortunate stresses in their lives. They require nourishment from good quality food to help ease the demands of their most difficult days.
I spoke to Barb Stewart, the Program Coordinator at the Salvation Army, to get a better sense of how this initiative has affected their ability to help members of the community. Plagued by the common misconception that they don’t accept perishable donations, one of the primary goals of the organization over the last decade has been to establish ways to increase the amount of fresh, local produce available to those who access the food bank. Great Estates Okanagan has contributed greatly in their efforts to provide nourishing food for everyone.
One of the pillars of a strong community is a network of neighbours who are there to support each other in times of need. I feel privileged to live in a place that cares so deeply about the people that make up its fabric and is committed to the fight against hunger as we work to create a sustainable future for us all.