St. Joe’s kitchen staff are happy to be receiving fresh food direct from local farms on a regular basis thanks to the FEED project.

FEED provides fresh idea and fresh food for Comox Valley

Patients at St. Joseph’s General Hospital, residents at Glacier View Lodge and students at North Island College are enjoying freshly picked vegetables, thanks to a project geared at increasing the supply of local food in public institutions.

The project — dubbed FEED (Food, Environment and Economic Development) Comox Valley — is establishing a new food model for institutions that is not dependent on imported vegetables from the U.S.

“It is time to re-localize our food system and revitalize our economy,” said project lead Sandra Hamilton, who would like to see the creation of a regional food hub in the Valley.

But is there enough local demand within 100 kilometres to instal warehousing, cold storage and other necessary infrastructure?

“The next step is a peel and chop facility,” Hamilton said. “All of that is jobs. It’s an exciting conversation.”

By going direct from the farm to the hospital, she says the farmer gets the highest price possible, at the same price the hospital is already paying,

“We in British Columbia have the highest percentage of old farmers — I think it’s 60 per cent over 60 — but more worryingly, we have the lowest percentage in Canada of young farmers, which is 0.6 per cent under 40. What are we going to do to make it viable for the next generation? That’s why the hospitals and the seniors homes are such an important market because they provide stability of demand.”

She notes the predictability of institutions in terms of patients/residents, number of beds and diet, which is usually on a two or four-week rotation.

“You can define it a year in advance,” Hamilton said.

St Joe’s and Glacier View purchases tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and potatoes from Sieffert’s Farm, as well as carrots, onions and peppers.

“Sieffert’s grows lovely lettuce, and the baby potatoes taste like butter,” said Wanda McMillan, director of nutritional services. “We’re thrilled to be supporting our local farmers. We’re getting the products at a much quicker rate…We’re somewhat limited on what’s available. They pick it one day and they deliver it to us the next day.”

Island Health is awaiting the outcomes of the pilot FEED project.

“We’re very supportive of getting local food into hospitals, and using more local foods,” said Lynn Nabata, director of food services for Island Health. “We’re looking forward to working with Sandra more in the future.”

Hamilton notes the need for more volume to supply further institutions, such as the new regional hospital under construction by the college.

“We have one more growing season before the new hospital opens,” she said.

Come fall, Hamilton hopes to determine the number of carrots and potatoes needed, and to have farmers buy the seeds and grow to order next year for local institutions.

“Then the farmers can plant higher volumes.”

There was a time — 1950 to be exact — when farmers produced 85 per cent of the Island’s food. These days, however, an estimated 96 per cent of food is coming by fridge and ferry. The remaining four per cent is milk.

“Basically, we have no capacity to feed ourselves right now,” Hamilton said.

A report, Wake-Up Call: California Drought & B.C.’s Food Security, found that B.C. produce prices increased between 5.7 and 9.6 per cent last year. If these trends continue for the next five years, price increases of 25 to 50 per cent are predicted for many fruits and vegetables.

“One of the things that saddens me is there’s still a lot of under-utilized or non-utilized good quality farm land on the east coast of Vancouver Island,” said Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, who notes the Valley’s roughly 500 farms grow an estimated 180 of B.C.’s 220 agricultural products.

“We have the ability to provide a huge range of product, let alone seafood as well,” he said. “I think she’s (Hamilton) got a great idea. The challenge she has is, too many farmers, even a big Comox Valley farm, might not have the capacity to consider this on its own…Can they work with a handful of other farmers to create these processing facilities that are necessary.”

Hamilton says health authorities could easily re-structure food contracts — which would enable farmers to bid on them, without numerous multi-national companies coming between them.

“Why do we need three to seven multi-national food companies to get a potato into a hospital?” she said. “What we do now is we lump these massive contracts together. The companies have to bid on the whole thing. Fresh, local food needs to be pulled out of these contracts, so that our farmers can bid on it fairly. They don’t have access to those contracts right now.”

McRae said politicians aren’t the ones who sign the contracts. But he loves the idea she’s pushing — signing contracts to give flexibility to bring more local agricultural product into institutions.

“I think it’s the going-forward contracts that are the real strength that we need to encourage farmers to advocate for,” he said.

Hamilton said conversations are starting about how to replicate the FEED model across Vancouver Island.

“FEED Comox Valley has successfully demonstrated that trade agreements, price and food safe are not the insurmountable barriers we once believed them to be,” she said.

 

Hamilton has been invited to present proposals at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) and at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) in the fall.

 

 

Just Posted

Mid-Vancouver Island air quality risk very high

Residents of the mid-Island area went to bed last night and awoke… Continue reading

Comox Valley Ground Search & Rescue kept busy across the province

CVGSAR had a busy week, sending rescuers as far away as Invermere

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Glacier View residents take a ride on the river

Ground Search and Rescue guides floaters on Puntledge

Brewing up some community engagement

Insp. Tim Walton says goodbye to the Comox Valley

Mother charged with homicide of Langley seven-year-old

Aaliyah Rosa’s 36-year-old mother charged with second degree murder: IHIT

Despite threats, Soldiers of Odin a no show at B.C. tent city

Nanaimo’s Discontent City held a counter rally on Sunday

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in 2019

PM Justin Trudeau gears up to run in next year’s election

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

A massive cloud of smoke hangs over B.C. and Alberta due to wildfires

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

In response to the Pennsylvania report, Francis labeled the misconduct “crimes”

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

The pilot project provides seasonal workers with up to five more weeks of benefits

Trump rages on Mueller following Times report

Trump takes to Twitter calling Robert Mueller “disgraced and discredited”

BC Wildfire crew rescues lost puppies

They were just leaving the Monashee Complex of fires when they found the cutest creatures.

Most Read