In the last two and a half weeks LUSH Valley Food Action Society (LUSH Valley) and the Comox Valley Food Policy Council (FPC) have been working on an emergency food accessibility response to the pandemic. When food hoarding and panic buying was resulting in food shortages for the most vulnerable in our community, they mobilized to find donations of food to deliver to the Comox Valley Food Bank, Comox Valley Family Services, tenants at the Washington Inn and other Social Service agencies in need. Last week, during the temporary closure of our local Food Bank, they raised funds to purchase $5,000 in grocery gift cards to distribute to people in need.

The necessarily collaborative nature of this response cannot be understated. This type of a mobilized response could not have been possible without the co-operation and guidance of the Comox Valley Food Policy Council, the Coalition to End Homelessness, the Community Health Network and countless other partner agencies and supporters across the region. The power of these relationships and the generosity of all involved has given me great hope in this very difficult time.

Last week we had a ‘soft launch’ of a new program called Emergency Food Share. We are asking agencies to let us know what their clients’ food needs are. We are also asking businesses with food to donate to contact us. Both can keep us informed by going to our website and clicking on the Emergency Food Share button to fill out the online form or e-mail foodshare@lushvalley.org.

LUSH Valley is currently gathering a picture of the needs in our community and is developing systems with the expectation that this need may grow over the coming weeks and months. We are in the process of securing locations and funds to launch two new food delivery-only programs (hot meals and Good Food Boxes) in the coming week, with the help of community partners and supporters.

LUSH Valley believes that we must also be thinking about the food producers farmers in our region and the local economy. The organization also intends to support farmers and producers when possible, with local food purchases for their Good Food Boxes, to further show our commitment to and support of our community and the economy.

We are asking people to be patient and kind as we navigate this new reality, work out the bugs of our new systems, secure locations and put in place the necessary safety protocol for staff and volunteers. We were happy to hear the recent announcement of the CV Food Bank reopening and want to stress that we see our new programs as complementary in meeting the many food needs in our community at this time.

We have been heartened to see how many people are stepping up to help. We have seen first-hand that this emergency situation has brought out the best in people. Currently, the best way for people to help us is to provide a financial donation to LUSH Valley so that we may purchase and distribute grocery store gift cards, hire a cook, drivers, and a cleaner. You can donate through our website (lushvalley.org) or send an e-transfer to admin@lushvalley.org. If sending an e-transfer, be sure to put your mailing address and email in the message box so that we will be able to provide a tax receipt.

You can also help by planting a food garden, supporting local farmers and food producers, and practicing social/physical distancing and to remember to reach out virtually to friends and family. Thanks, so much, to all who are supporting our efforts through monetary contributions, food donations and volunteer support. We are all in this together.

For more information go to LUSHvalley.org/foodshare.

Maurita Prato

Executive Director, LUSH Valley Food Action Society