In my community there is a grass roots movement to feed the hungry. The Boundary Foodshare began in 2010. When artist, Vivien Browne noticed that the economy wasn’t improving and people in her area were losing their ability to feed themselves, she didn’t sit around talking about the problem. Vivien gathered some neighbours together and they started planting gardens to feed these people. Now the Boundary food share is feeding over 200 people every season, using the surplus garden produce that everyone has in their garden.
The community in Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Midway and Greenwood is behind the initiative, with farmer’s plowing under grass forage to plant vegetable patches that the Foodshare folks help manage. One beef farmer donated $800 worth of grass-fed ground beef to Foodshare last fall. Others have donated eggs. The protein is like gold to this group, especially protein that doesn’t need to be chewed.
One difference in this work is that it doesn’t rely on prepackaged food — known to be high in calories, sugar, carbs and GM ingredients. It doesn’t ask donors to increase their own grocery bills to help the needy. Instead it asks this rural community to take the surplus food they already grow and help their neighbours. The needy benefit from unprocessed, whole organic foods, which build health and strength. Its a win-win situation.
Many of the recipients are elderly and unable to grow food for themselves. Some are without teeth — can’t afford them. There are many children — school age that were eating regularly at school but now — during the summer — are at home with empty cupboards. Vivien does her best to find these people and bring them food.
Due to government regulations, Vivien doesn’t actually give food to anyone. She simply invites people to help themselves to what’s in her trunk. And she makes sure there is ample to meet the need.
How does Foodshare meet the needs of their community in winter? They’ve invested in a dehydrator and a freezer to preserve the summer bounty. Volunteers weed the gardens and harvest food when its ready. The whole community is behind the work.
Are able bodied, healthy people taking advantage of the system? 98% of the recipients are truly needy and unable to provide for themselves out of their incomes. Most are on social assistance of some kind. Some are working but their rent, utilities and other payments cut into their food budget. One person that Vivien thought might be working the system — is slowly coming around — seeing that he needs to give back in some way, since he’s receiving help from the community.
Do the recipients give back? Some are too infirmed to help in the gardens and those help in other ways. One elderly lady is knitting dishcloths that can be sold at the group’s information booth, at the local farmer’s market, to help support Foodshare. Those who don’t enjoy gardening often find other areas within the community where they can serve the community. Many volunteer to help in the gardens.
The group is also working on teaching people how to cook with whole foods, how to grow their own food and how to preserve the bounty for the winter. Remember the community kitchens and food co-ops that sprang up in the 80s — where people worked together, by-passing the multinational corporations, to provide whole food for their families. The time is ripe for such an initiative today. Boundary Foodshare has grown to meet some of the need.
Vivien Browne is one of the artists displaying her work at the Boundary Artisan Studio Tour. Vivien is joining a group of Rock Creek and Christian Valley artists and artisans that will be setting up during the Kettle River Arts Festival, in Rock Creek. You can view her work on Sat. August 13 and Sun August 14 in the Artisan Area, near Rags, Relics, and Rutabagas, in Rock Creek. Joybilee Farm will also be participating, at the farm, in the Boundary Artisan Studio Tour. Come spend the weekend in Boundary Country and meet us.
What’s happening in your own community to meet the needs of the poor? Can our readers learn from what your community is doing? Leave a comment.