Creston Valley food recovery projects bring fruit products and skills to people in the Basin

When July rolls around, cherries dot the Creston Valley landscape. Now, even more people in the Basin can look forward to enjoying this abundance as two food recovery projects work to reduce food waste and help families meet their nutritional needs.

JUICED

When it comes to cherries, the Creston Valley sees about 40 dump truck loads a year discarded because of poor looks or size. Since 2017, the Fields Forward Society—which promotes a vibrant, productive local agri-food system—has used its Kootenay Mobile Press to help farmers turn about 200,000 pounds of these cherries into juice. Now it will be doing even more by making its own juice.
This year, in a Trust-supported project, the society plans to divert two of these truckloads—about 15,525 pounds of cherries—to make 3,375 litres of cherry juice. It will also work to develop fruit leather or other cherry products from the “mash” (crushed cherry pulp) left over from juicing.

“There is so much mash from the process,” says Coordinator Elizabeth Quinn. “The mash would either end up as compost or in the landfill, so it’s a missed opportunity not to create value-added products.”

The society will then distribute the juice and additional products to about 2,250 low-income people:

    • 800 through the Nelson Community Food Centre
    • 800 through the Cranbrook Food Bank Society
    • 200 through the Creston Valley Gleaners Society Food Bank and families sponsored by the Creston Refugee Committee
    • 450 through Christmas hampers in Creston and the Regional District of Central Kootenay Area A.

This wide distribution will help redistribute quality food to people who can have a hard time accessing nutritional products.

Quinn says, “It’s very important to me to value what we have in the valley.”

The society will also experiment with other cherry products, including purchasing a dehydrator by early spring 2020. With consultation from a food scientist, it also plans to establish a process that can be adapted to discarded items from other crops, hopefully giving incentive to new entrepreneurs.

“Some producers want to add value to the mash but don’t have the time to think it through,” says Quinn. In this way, Fields Forward will be helping them out.

SHARING THE BOUNTY

The Creston Valley Food Action Coalition—which runs the Creston farmers’ market—will also be using Trust support to undertake a food recovery project.

The project’s name—Harvest Share Food Recovery 2.0—is taken from the coalition’s Harvest Share program. This program recovers 18,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables annually and shares it with agencies, families and volunteers—enough for 288 families’ annual intake of produce. Harvest Share 2.0 will take that recovery a step further.

First, the coalition is helping Fields Forward package the cherry juice it will be creating with its mobile press. Second, it’s hosting Whole Food for Whole Family cooking classes, which teach families to cook with nutritious, seasonal, local food. The 12-week program began in late July 2019 and is being attended by families brought to Creston by the Creston Refugee Committee and participants in the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program. The 2019 classes focus on preparation, and the 2020 classes will include sessions on preservation and canning.

“The classes show how to source natural food in the valley at a low cost, so everybody can make nutritious food for the family,” says James Gates, Co-chair. “It’s really an extension of what the Food Action Coalition tries to do. We harvest food and distribute it to agencies, but people don’t always know what to do with it.”

Between the juicing and the classes, Gates comments that there’s huge opportunity to keep even more food from rotting. “It’s an opportunity to turn what’s wasted into nutritious food for those who need it.”