What is Fernwood Helping Hands?

Fernwood Helping Hands is a community outreach program where skilled volunteers ‘glean’  – the practice of collecting fresh, excess foods – from farms across the CRD. Recovered surplus farm produce will be redistributed  to individuals experiencing food insecurity who access neighbourhood level programming, including the regional wide produce distribution program, the Good Food Box. 

In exchange, volunteers will gain valuable and transferable skills by accessing the Fernwood Food Literacy Curriculum—a combination of digital resources, skill-building opportunities, applied knowledge in growing and cultivating food, food processing, and culinary arts—and of course, will take home a Good Food Box.

Stay tuned here for the Fernwood Food Literacy Curriculum coming in May… 

Fernwood Helping Hands is a collaborative project between Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group (Fernwood NRG) and LifeCycles Project Society; two organizations focused on decreasing food insecurity and increasing access to healthy food, bolstering food literacy skills, and support community food sovereignty in the CRD.

We are dedicated to help:

  • Close loops in the local food waste stream;
  • Provide access to healthy, fresh, and local produce, thereby increasing food choices for folks who use the CRD wide Good Food Box program;
  • Building relationships with local growers and promoting their contribution to local food security; and
  • Contributing to the exploration of different and innovative models for addressing food insecurity in the CRD.

How it works:

  • Farmers contact the Farm Gleaning Coordinator when they have crop available, either for pick-up or an on-farm pick by volunteer gleaners
  • The Coordinator will train and organizes a team of skilled, dedicated volunteers to travel to farm with tools and harvest bins to harvest available produce or pick-up previously harvested produce
  • The Farmer provides an invoice for the produce donated, and is then eligible for an in-kind tax receipt
  • The Coordinator brings food to Fernwood NRG, where the food is used in the Good Food Box, community meals, community kitchen workshops; all redistributing to folks experiencing food insecurity

What we harvest:

We will harvest any crop you have to offer- last season, LifeCycles harvested 40 different crops, from arugula to zucchini! The crop must not be past due, and still hold market value if a tax receipt is desired. This includes:
• Surplus crop left over after harvest
• Post-market produce, provided it has market value
• Crops that market forces have made uneconomical for the farmer to harvest otherwise

What we offer farms:

  • We can provide farms with a charitable tax receipt for the produce harvested, provided it is not past due and still holds market value
  • Promotion of your farm’s participation in the Gleaning Project on our social media and other marketing outlets such as the Fernwood Newspaper, Village Vibe (3000 copies bi-monthly)

Become a Partner Farm:

Fernwood Helping Hands is looking for partner farmers who would be willing to allow the Farm Gleaning Coordinator and a team of skilled volunteers to glean and/or pick up surplus produce when crops are available from June to October. Please contact the Farm Gleaning Coordinator for more information at farmgleaning@lifecyclesproject.ca

 Fernwood Helping Hands: Partner Farm Information

Partner Farmer Memorandum of Understanding 

Become a Fernwood Helping Hands Volunteer:

We are looking for dedicated, enthusiastic gardening-curious folk who would like to participate in the Fernwood Helping Hands program. We require volunteers to be available at least twice a month from June to October to attend various farm picks across the CRD. Please fill out the Fernwood volunteer application form here

Why recover food waste?

Today, approximately a billion people are chronically malnourished while intensive practices of the global agricultural system continue to cause environmental degradation of land, water, biodiversity, species loss and climate change. The global implications are intensified when food– including all inputs (energy, nutrients, water, food miles, labor, packaging, refrigeration) — is wasted. Despite this, an estimated one-third of the world’s food is wasted, enough to feed three billion people. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world (behind only the US and China). Recovering just half of the food that is lost or wasted could feed the population of the planet, let alone the four million Canadians living in food insecurity. Reducing food waste and increasing food literacy in our communities is a critical leverage point to foster a sustainable food system. It is precisely because food waste is such a large-scale system issue that it is such a ripe opportunity for sustainable development.

Learn more about our programs!

The Good Food Box program, operated by the Fernwood NRG, is a non-profit, region-wide, volunteer-run distribution system that currently purchases high-quality produce to ensure variety, freshness, and affordability with a focus on seasonal fruits and vegetables. The Good Food Box program partners with a broad network of ten different organizations from Sooke to Saanich including community centres, neighbourhood houses, and aboriginal organizations, to provide low-cost, access to fresh fruits and vegetables at the neighbourhood level.

Community Food Hubs help:

  • De-stigmatized access of food to vulnerable populations
  • Connects individuals to available social services in their community
  • Creates streamlined delivery systems to underserved neighbourhoods
  • Promotes equitable food access to address the underlying issues of income inequality

Order your weekly Good Food Box online or in person at one of our many locations today!

has successfully orchestrated a well-established Fruit Tree project for the past eighteen years. Their volunteers head out to fruit trees and farms across the CRD to, ‘glean’ otherwise unused fruit and redistribute a large portion of produce to food insecure folks. In 2016, the Fruit Tree Project harvested and distributed a record breaking 66,000 lbs of fruit, but even then could not meet the demand to harvest and glean more from farmers and fruit tree owners. Over the last two years, LifeCycles has also completed a successful Farm Gleaning component in partnership with the Mustard Seed, and are looking to expand their distribution outlets through Fernwood NRG.



VancityFernwood Helping Hands is supported by the Vancity EnviroFund. Support for this project does not necessarily imply Vancity’s endorsement of the findings or contents of this report.