A pair of Comox Valley groups are joining forces to put food on tables during the health crisis.

The LUSH Valley Food Action Society and Comox Valley Food Policy Council are working together on an emergency food accessibility response. 

They’ve gathered food donations for the Comox Valley Food Bank, Comox Valley Family Services, tenants at the Washington Inn, and other Social Service agencies in need. 

When the food bank closed last week, they bought $5,000 in grocery gift cards for people in need.

“The necessarily collaborative nature of this response cannot be understated,” LUSH Valley executive director Maurita Prato said.  

“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.”

She added that last week they 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.”

You can do so by clicking on the Emergency Food Share button at lushvalley.org to fill out the online form or e-mail foodshare@lushvalley.org.

Prato added that LUSH Valley is currently gathering a picture of the needs in the community and are developing systems with the expectation that this need may grow over the coming weeks and months. 

They 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 said that it believes that we must also be thinking about the food producers and 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 their 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,” Prato said. 

“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.”

“In this time of self-isolation, quarantine and the threat of COVID-19, LUSH Valley has proven itself to be a creative and nimble organization,” said Bev Miller, Tenant Support Worker for BC Housing’s Washington Apartments. 

“The organization quickly reorganized, expanded and partnered with other non-profits to meet the food needs of the greater Comox Valley.”

 “Of course, we were shocked to hear that our local Food Bank was closing [temporarily] due to the pandemic,” added Miller, “but at the same time we did trust that LUSH Valley would step up to the challenge of meeting the food needs of our tenants at The Washington Apartments. LUSH did respond immediately, delivering food for our tenants. And they continue to work with us to set up an appropriate way of delivering food in this extraordinary time.  Thank you, LUSH Valley for being such a positive force for good in our community!”

Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness also champions LUSH Valley’s response to the pandemic. 

Coordinator Andrea Cupelli said they’re grateful for the fast mobilization of the Emergency Food Share program from LUSH Valley and the FPC. 

“The responses they have created are ensuring our community’s most vulnerable, including those who are unhoused, will be better able to access food during these unprecedented times,” Cupelli said.

“Everyone, regardless of their circumstances, should have equal access to good food.”

LUSH Valley says the best way to help is through a cash donation so they can purchase and distribute grocery store gift cards, hire a cook, drivers, and a cleaner. 

You can donate online (lushvalley.org) or send an e-transfer to admin@lushvalley.org.  

Prato said you can also help by planting a food garden, supporting local farmers and food producers, and practising social/physical distancing.

“Thanks, so much, to all who are supporting our efforts through monetary contributions, food donations and volunteer support,” she said. 

“We are all in this together.”