Cowichan Green Community’s Judy Stafford is thrilled with the provincial grant that will help the organization open the reFRESH Cowichan Marketplace. (Citizen file)

Business notes: Cowichan food recovery project provides skills training, feeds community

Six local job seekers will gain work experience in business, marketing social enterprise and event planning while helping the Cowichan Green Community expand its food security programs.

The province will provide $124,972 for a job creation project to help open the reFRESH Cowichan Marketplace. The storefront is a social enterprise where local shoppers can find fresh produce, frozen meals, dry goods and a line of value-added products at accessible prices.

Revenue generated from sales goes to support operating costs for the CGC’s food recovery programs.

“This food recovery project, including distribution to almost 20 service providers in Cowichan, is a moving train that no one wants to stop,” says Judy Stafford, executive director of Cowichan Green Community.

“By generating revenue through the store, we will be able to keep the van on the road, picking up and delivering thousands of pounds of food to community members who are facing multiple barriers to nutritious fruit and vegetables. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s support.”

In 2018, Cowichan Green Community received $84,011 to begin establishing a food-waste recovery program that redistributes surplus food from local grocery stores to emergency food providers. The current program is an extension of that work and expands upon the participants’ skill sets that can be applied to jobs in agriculture, retail, food services and the social enterprise sector.

“This is a project that demonstrates how we can work together to combine opportunities for people and social value,” said Shane Simpson, minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

“Cowichan Green Community saw a problem, brought together partners and initiated a project that improves food security in the community while giving people marketable skills they can use to find a good job. This is how we can reduce poverty; when everyone is working together towards a common goal.”

In less than a year, over 63,500 kilograms (140,000 pounds) of edible food has been diverted from the landfill through CGC’s food recovery programs. More than half has been donated directly to schools, food banks and other service providers.

“The team at Cowichan Green Community has been feeding people in our community for years,” said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan.

“Blending that work with creating opportunities for people to develop marketable job skills is an example to the entire province on how to engage your community to tackle poverty reduction from every angle.”

The project has a food distribution centre and uses a transport van to bring fruit and vegetables to organizations in its community, including the Cowichan Valley Basket Society, the Hiiye’yu Lelum House of Friendship’s Healthiest Babies Possible program, Cowichan Tribes Daycare, Cowichan Valley Women’s Shelter, Khohemun Elementary School, Healthy Beginnings and Warmland House, among others.

• • •

A new Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce member, Cowichan River Lodge, will be hosting the second Chamber mixer tonight (Wednesday, April 17).

“We’ll be out at their beautiful riverside property in Lake Cowichan for beverages, light bites and a tour of the newly refurbished lodge as well as the picturesque grounds,” says Chamber executive director, Sonja Nagel.

“Have a go at their Fishing at the Lodge charity game. Buy a ticket and cast your line in the pond for a chance to catch an overnight stay at the Lodge (breakfast included) and a gift certificate for a dining experience at The Summit Restaurant and more,” adds Nagel.

Even if you don’t snag the big fish, every angler is a winner with 20 per cent off a stay at Cowichan River Lodge. The best part is that all ticket proceeds from the Fishing at the lodge game will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cowichan Valley.

• • •

The Chamber, together with Island Savings, will welcome VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson as the guest of honour for the second Speaker Luncheon of the month.

Nilson will be speaking on Wednesday, April 24 at the Ramada Hotel in Duncan. The luncheon runs from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Vancouver Island University was founded as a vocational school in 1936 and today it is celebrating 10 years as a university. During this period there has been unprecedented growth for VIU and the regions it serves.

Nilson will unveil VIU’s latest Economic Impact Study results and will highlight the critical role VIU plays in driving the regional economy and addressing societal changes.

“You’ll want to join us in celebrating Dr. Nilson’s tremendous contributions as he prepares to pass the torch to the next VIU president and vice-chancellor later this year,” says Alec Wheeler, events and membership manager at the Chamber.

For more information call Alec at 250-748-1111.

You do not have to be a member to attend Chamber luncheons.

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