After diverting over 105,000 pounds of food from the Kitimat landfill since they started, the Kitimat Food Share Program is not content to rest on their laurels.
The community service, which is run under the banner of the Kitimat Community Services Society, has plans to expand their definition of ‘food share’, which will mean an expanded public market in 2013, and hopefully soon a community garden.
Liz MacDonald, the Food Share co-ordinator, is excited for the programs they have geared for the near future, which includes a weekly – instead of biweekly – market that she said will be expanded to include musical acts and a garage sale alley.
But the market is only an aspect of their work, which is even at times built on the work they do distributing food to those who need it. MacDonald said two users of the Food Share even became vendors during last year’s market.
So to start, the food comes from the two Kitimat grocery stores, Overwaitea and Super Valu, each which provide a wide variety of food items from milk to deli sandwiches.
From there the food is distributed in a number of ways. School-based LINK programs use the food for things like breakfast programs, and the Kitimat youth centre has been receiving food donations as well over the spring break. Food will make its way to Kitamaat Village, and of course people can pick up food at their office in Mountainview Square.
The participation in the food share is significant. MacDonald said there are 597 registered with the organization to collect food, 277 of those are children.
MacDonald said that the users are a great bunch of people and many will turn around and offer their time to help them out.
One of their volunteers, who we’ll not name for their comfort, said that they were happy to donate their time to the Food Share during the week because of how much they went above and beyond in supporting them during some rough times last year.
“They helped me out [last year], I was in real need of food, I was in a bad situation,” the volunteer said, who added they had no power or water at the time.
The Food Share gave out food and recipes to use on the barbecue, the only way for them to cook at the time without any power.
“They definitely went above and beyond in helping me, so I don’t mind volunteering my time here,” the volunteer added.
MacDonald said it isn’t the only story of people who have given back.
“Nobody wants to take anything for free,” she said. “And if they have the ability to give back they feel a little better.”
When the public market returns again this year — expectedly in May — she said it willpartially be a fundraiser for the Food Share.
By being open every Sunday she also hopes to catch all of the shift workers they may have missed last year.
But people loved it, and she said they plan to expand with live musical acts, as well as spreading the market out to have the vendors in the parking lot like last year, the food vendors through the pedestrian area and a nearby garage sale alley.
She hopes by having garage sales centralized, fuel will also be spared by people driving throughout town seeking sales.
Meanwhile they hope to get a community garden started, potentially this year. They had initially eyed a grassy spot just outside their office but may move their plans closer to the college so as to not affect the area for their markets; a lot of people liked the grassy spot to sit down to have their lunch on market days.
The garden, initially, will likely be a teaching garden but is expected to later be divided into plots for individuals to garden.
MacDonald said there are other plans in the works throughout Kitimat Community Services to help get a handle on an influx of people.
They hope to establish a Community Action Centre, which will provide several services, such as helping people with literacy issues to fill out essential paperwork, like Employment Insurance forms.
It will fill a gap that can’t currently be serviced by the Employment Services Centre, said MacDonald. It will also be the first step to a potential transitional housing program.
MacDonald personally thinks it’s a better solution than things like a full-on homeless shelter. The idea would be a place, like an apartment, that people can be placed in for just a few days at a time, if they have come to town for work but have no place to stay.
MacDonald said that the Mayor and Council have been working with them to create plans to address the issues facing town.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan said the council is pro-active in their approach to changes in the community and do want some of KCSS’s proposals to go ahead.
“We as Kitimat need to be prepared and we have set up some committees to try to be prepared,” she said. “The big thing is that council and myself have acknowledged that this is happening and the need is there and we would like to work with the Kitimat Community Services society to look at these issues.”