Moe Vesey with some of the 3,842 pounds of meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit reclaimed in November through Cowichan Neighbourhood House’s Zero Food Waste and Soup’er Group activities. At $2.50 per pound, that would be $9,605 of food given to the local community at no cost to taxpayers, donors, or granting agencies. (Photo submitted)

Cowichan Neighbourhood House’s Zero Food Waste program reaping huge benefits

Donations and volunteers provide a healthy mix for success

Volunteers reclaimed 3,842 pounds of meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit through Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association’s Zero Food Waste and Soup’er Group activities in November, reports president, chief soup maker and community dinner organizer and cook Moe Vesey.

At $2.50 per pound, that amounts to $9,605 of food given to the local community at no cost to taxpayers, donors, or granting agencies, she added. Utopia Bakery Cafe, Russell Farms, and 49th Parallel Grocery were all huge contributors, as were folks in Chemainus and the surrounding area who volunteer.

At the last Board of Directors meeting at Cowichan Neighbourhood House, local farmer and Food Waste Hero Eileen Record, who picks up food from the 49th Parallel Store seven days a week with husband Gary and delivers it to Neighbourhood House, gave a comprehensive report.

Friday is the busiest day with the Free Store, but especially with the free food from the Zero Food Waste Program. Friday opening is at 11:30 a.m., earlier than the rest of the week, which coincides with the Harvest House Food Bank next door at the Chemainus United Church.

“That way, everyone has a chance to go to both places for food at the same time,” Vesey noted. “We do have ‘regulars’ in Chemainus who come in Monday to Thursday, between 1 and 3 p.m. to receive free food or made from scratch frozen soup or a bowl of hot soup with a bread bun from Utopia Bakery, but many from Penelakut, only come in on Friday.”

The Zero Food Waste Program is partnered with the local Food Bank, which takes the non-perishables, and Neighbourhood House takes all the perishables,” she added.

Sometimes, when there is too much bread or dairy, it is shared with the Cowichan Valley Basket Society and the Warmland Shelter in Duncan. Coolers are also taken to the two Rotary seniors buildings with yogurt, fruit and vegetables.

There is also a group called the Cowichan Food Security Coalition, and the Cowichan Neighbourhood House is an active participating member, that meets once a month at the Cowichan Green Community board room in Duncan. It is made up of a number of organizations and individuals who are concerned with food security.

The food that is donated is also used towards Neighbourhood House Community Pot Luck Dinners that are open to everyone.

Volunteers are always needed for many programs, Vesey indicated, and since the Zero Food Waste Program is such a success, more help is needed for the friendly farmers, the soup program and community dinners.

“The more healthy food we can share in our community, the healthier and stronger our community members become,” summed up Vesey. “We can solve hunger in our community. We just all need to work together.”

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