As he stood inside the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society office in Sechelt, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Member of Parliament Patrick Weiler announced $257,639 in federal funding for a food project at the society’s to-be-built location.
“We are incredibly excited about what this is going to mean to our project,” Catherine Leach, executive director of SCCSS, said at the announcement on Jan. 20. The Building Together project will include two storeys of social services and four storeys of affordable housing for women and children.
Leach shared that this investment will go toward equipment for a commercial kitchen where people can learn how to cook, grow and preserve healthy food. A free store will operate similar to a food bank, but allow people to select their own food. The society will also use its many community gardens to teach people how to grow and harvest fruit trees, vegetables and medicinal plants.
Weiler made the announcement on behalf of Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. He mentioned the rising cost of living and global inflation that are leading to an increasing demand on community services. Helping those services is a priority for the federal government, he said.
“Frankly, there are few priorities that are more important than this,” Weiler said. “And in uncertain times like this, it's more critical than ever that we support community-led projects like these that help provide access to good healthy food.”
In an interview, Weiler said anytime the Sunshine Coast can have more local food production is great, especially as the vast majority of food comes from off-Coast.
That food will help bring community members together, Leach said. “It's a great way for people to connect and engage and build peer support systems, which we know makes people more resilient. And if you're struggling to put food on your table, you now have an opportunity to get together with six other people or six other families and learn how to cook and share a meal together.”
Using the funding for infrastructure is key to ensuring a long-term response, Leach added.
“We are incredibly grateful and we cannot wait till this is alive with community members, and maybe Patrick and everybody here will come and share a first meal with all of us,” she said.
Leach said they plan to have shovels in the ground at the Building Together site this summer, and building is anticipated to take 18 months. (As for SCCSS’s Foundry BC project to serve youth, a location has yet to be sourced. She invites anyone with 3,000 to 5,000 square feet to get in touch about donating or leasing that space. They hope to find a place in Sechelt to serve as a central location.)
Leach also highlighted that food security on the Coast is a community-wide effort, and that everyone needs to work together.
The Sea to Sky Community Services Society is receiving $135,300 in project funding that will be used to purchase a refrigerated van, appliances and food processing equipment for its new Pemberton Food Bank kitchen.
The funding is part of the fourth phase of the Local Food Infrastructure Fund that was announced in March 2022.