Mother and daughter volunteer team, Jane Rondow and Sophie Priestman, help sort produce for LUSH Valley’s Good Food Box program every week. Volunteers have been essential to the success of this program. Photo submitted

Mother and daughter volunteer team, Jane Rondow and Sophie Priestman, help sort produce for LUSH Valley’s Good Food Box program every week. Volunteers have been essential to the success of this program. Photo submitted

LUSH finds new home until the end of the year

Hot Meal Program and Good Food Boxes are operational until end of December

With a kitchen for their Hot Meal Program and space for their Good Food Boxes all under one roof, LUSH Valley Food Action Society has found a new home, albeit temporarily.

For the past few months, the local organization – which helps people within the Comox Valley gain local food system skills, knowledge and access to good food – has been operating out of the Comox Valley Curling Club on Headquarters Road.

In October, as the club needed the space for their ice, LUSH was searching for a new home. Just prior to Thanksgiving, they found one, said Maurita Prato, the organization’s executive director.

“When the ice was going in, we were putting feelers out in all different directions … we wrote a letter to (Courtenay) mayor and council for a space for both programs to operate out of. It was a bit of a long process, but we had plans C,D,E and F in place.”

LUSH received word that the city was able to find them a space for both programs which are delivery-only (as a result, the location is not public).

Prato noted as the space can accommodate both programs, there’s now synchronicity that can exist between the kitchen for the meals and the food boxes (healthy hampers).

However, the space is available to the organization temporarily until the end of the year.

Prato noted funding for emergency programs is drying up with the second wave of COVID-19.

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“There is an increased need, so our program will run until mid-December, and then we’re going to take a bit of a break and do a full evaluation of the programs to make them more sustainable.”

In early spring shortly after the pandemic hit, the Comox Valley Food Bank shut its doors temporarily, and Prato knew there was a need for some new programs.

“We realized this isn’t something that is going to go away in a few weeks. Pretty quickly, we arranged a call with the CVRD and the City (of Courtenay) for the Hot Meals Program and the food box.”

On April 1, the organization was using the kitchen facilities at the Florence Filberg Centre and producing 200 meals a day, along with 25 food boxes. On April 8, upon shifting to the curling club, LUSH was able to produce up to 70 boxes a day. Prato credited the large-scale effort to the support of local growers and suppliers, and the curling club for allowing the programs to restart.

The Good Food Box program began last year as a pilot program, serving 50 people for 10 weeks. The original plan was to make it bigger this year once the growing season was well underway, but due to the pandemic, the program restarted in April. There have been nearly 10,000 deliveries of boxes so far every other week, with nearly 60 households on the waitlist.

The Hot Meal Program was a direct COVID-19 response, Prato added, as multiple agencies with meal programs around the Valley shut down due to the pandemic. That left a gap to fill, and the program has made and delivered around 23,000 meals since April 1.

Both programs rely on staff and volunteers; Prato said volunteers have donated “thousands of in-kind hours, which has been really phenomenal.”

For more information about LUSH, visit LushValley.org or call 250-331-0152.



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