Connection and Resiliency Through Food and Cooking
Healthy Kimberley’s Food Recovery Depot is preparing to serve more than meals, as their latest endeavour is the perfect recipe for connection and community through food access. After nearly four years of operating out of a city-owned kitchen, they’re now preparing to expand with a commercial kitchen development project that will increase the volume and efficiency of meal production.
The Depot has been distributing food fit to eat, but not fit for sale, to Kimberley residents facing food security challenges since 2018. After a strict sorting process following food safety guidelines, some of that food, recovered from local grocery retailers, farms, restaurants and backyard gardens, is funnelled into their free frozen meal program — an important service unique to Kimberley and accessed through agency partners, as well as an on-site Open to Public event every Friday between 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
“We’ve been using an off-site, city-owned commercial kitchen, but we have outgrown the space and the opportunity to have our own kitchen on-site is exciting,” explains Program Coordinator Shannon Duncan. “With our own kitchen, all food and ingredients will be on-site and with less transportation needed we can create efficiencies to work with more fresh ingredients and explore food literacy opportunities. The Depot is already such a ripe ground for bringing people together around food, and being able to go one step further and offer regular workshops will be a great addition to our services.”
Since opening its doors, the Depot has recovered over 315,000 pounds of food, 85 per cent of which has been used to create over 25,000 frozen meals distributed to Kimberley residents in need. After receiving funding from Columbia Basin Trust to support local food production and reduction of food waste, Duncan sprang into action to plan the installation of a commercial kitchen in their food recovery facility in the Kimberley Health Centre. This on-site kitchen will provide a welcoming hub for food literacy, empowering Basin residents through education, skill-sharing and community camaraderie.
Healthy Kimberley’s initiatives are thriving with the help of their dedicated volunteers, who Duncan says are “the heart and soul of the entire operation.” Averaging 300 volunteer hours per month already, the new kitchen will provide even more learning opportunities for volunteers interested in sharpening or sharing their culinary skills, working alongside professional contracted cooks to create an accessible, subsidized fresh meal program.
“Since we have the bones of the original hospital kitchen, we just need to install equipment and do some updating, which I’m hoping will be completed within six months,” says Duncan. “We’ve experienced such fast growth, and it’s created a need for a subsidized program where people who can’t afford market prices can pay a graduated rate for meals. It will help fuel the program in a sustainable way so we can grow into the future.”
The Trust is supporting eight community-led projects with nearly $250,000 that increase access to affordable, quality, local food, with a particular emphasis on supporting vulnerable populations. See the backgrounder for a complete list of projects.