What does it mean to feel connected to your community?
›› JJ Ford
What does it mean to be nourished, fed, and supported by the people around you? How do we connect through food to a wider network of human and non-human relationships? What does it mean to be accountable in these relationships? As we enter the holiday season, and as we run our annual Gift of Good Food fundraiser for families to access Good Food Boxes, these are the questions I keep circling back to.
The Good Food Box is a non-profit, volunteer-packed, community-run distribution of fresh, healthy, affordable fruit & veggie boxes that is available from Sooke to Saanich. From humble beginnings as a mutual aid project in 2008, we now purchase 2-3 tonnes of fresh produce each week and pack it into individual bags that are sold through our website or donated thanks to funds from the Gift of Good Food fundraiser, which launched in November and will run until December 31st. The Gift of Good Food purchases a year’s worth of bi-weekly Good Food Boxes for families in need, and provides a consistent source of meaningful support for the families who receive it. But it also does much more.
Each week begins with our Good Food Box Coordinator, Ruben, combing through the price lists from our local farmers and distributors. He’s searching for the best deals, but he also places top priority on food grown locally, which boosts the seasonality and quality of what we offer. Thanks to his attention, 69% of our food from within 200 miles of Victoria last year. Spending our money as locally as possible strengthens our local food system, which is a long-term investment in our regional food security. Buying in bulk helps us to keep food costs affordable for our paying customers, and our bags full for everyone.
Once the food is ordered, an incredible team of volunteers shift into gear. Ellen fills our newsletter with amazing recipes, and a rotating cast of over 20 volunteers fill our gym to cheerfully pack anywhere from 250-500 bags of fresh produce. Our volunteers check every piece of food they pack, our chefs Patrick and Jake make use of any excess or slightly bruised produce, and we compost the small amount of food left after that. We’re able to reduce food waste, and contribute to future soil building through composting.
Enter stage left our distribution volunteers and community partners! Our team of volunteer drivers and over 18 community partners pick up and distribute our bags across the CRD. Each neighbourhood community centre serves as a local pick-up location, and we offer delivery to those who need it. Both paying customers and recipients of the Gift of Good Food get the same high quality, fresh produce from the same pick-up location, there is no distinction. One of our core values is that we provide dignified access to food—we don’t differentiate between our paying and non-paying customers. Everyone gets the same level of quality and service.
Our 18 community partners are an essential piece of the Gift of Good Food. They work closely with marginalized people in their communities, and they include neighbourhood community centres, transition houses, refugee service agencies, grassroots collectives, and the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. They identify people for whom the Gift of Good Food will have the greatest positive impact, based on the relationships they’ve established in their respective communities.
This network of relationships, which starts with the farmers who grow our food and expands outward, is really what the Gift of Good Food is about. As we’ve seen clearly over the past two years, we are not isolated individuals living out disconnected stories. We are all enmeshed in a web of relationships with the people and land around us, in a reciprocal loop. An investment in someone else’s well-being, an investment in your community, can be a wise investment in you too.
So please join us again this year in donating to the Gift of Good Food! It is truly the gift that keeps giving throughout the year. There are many ways to get involved, from individual donations, to starting a Fundraising Team, involving your business, or bidding on our silent auction. Our silent auction runs from December 7th to 9th and has loads of great items to check out. Head to thegiftofgoodfood.ca/donate to learn more. We look forward to working with, and for, you in the new year.
Photo caption: Thank you to our team of volunteers and staff who run the Good Food Box and to all the donors, funders, and partner organizations who come together to make the Gift of Good Food possible. The Gift of Good Food fundraising campaign is on now until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Photo: Don Craig.