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Programs support eating local year-roundPosted: November 4, 2011

Interior Health area residents are getting the message – locally grown food is better for your health, the environment and the local economy. Attendance is up at farmers’ markets, gardens are becoming more popular and people are paying attention to where their food is grown. Now that winter is on the way, can we still eat locally? With assistance from Interior Health’s Community Food Action Initiative (CFAI), the answer is yes. Many communities are developing innovative ways to help residents store and preserve the harvest for year-round enjoyment.

“Food preservation skills were once absolutely necessary in order to ensure food was available all year long,” said Rose Soneff, Community Nutritionist with Interior Health’s Food Security and Community Nutrition program. “CFAI funds are helping resurrect these lost and forgotten skills.”

One of the barriers to food preservation can be the cost of the equipment. In order to overcome this hurdle Kootenay Local Agricultural Society (KLAS), with assistance from CFAI, has purchased four commercial-sized food dehydrators. The dehydrators will be included in the Society’s tool library, which is available for residents of Castlegar, Nelson, Kaslo, New Denver and Nakusp, and accessible for a small fee of $8/day.

“The Kaslo Food Hub used these dehydrators to produce value added products and raise funds for their programs,” said Nette Lack, Administrator, Kootenay Local Agricultural Society. “Produce donations provided over the summer from a local distributor were used to make products such as garlic zucchini chips and apple rings which were then sold as a fundraiser. These products are economically viable, healthy and require little electricity for storage. The dehydrated food also helped educate the public on food preservation.”

The Cranbrook Food Action Committee launched The Harvest Connection Project, which included producing the East Kootenay Local Food Guide to help identify local food sources and “Learn to Preserve Food” workshops designed to de-mystify food preservation for non-profit groups.

“Gathering together to work with food in this way has been as much about community as it is about skill development,” says Shannon Grey Duncan, Project Coordinator.  “Each group has experienced the sense of empowerment that comes from taking control of what we eat and how we prepare it. Support for local food is definitely growing and new producers are starting up all the time.  It’s very exciting!”

The Wildsight Kimberley/Cranbrook’s Community Apple Capture Project was designed to increase the use of local fruit and showed community members how to maximize the yield of their fruit producing trees. CFAI funds enabled the group to purchase an apple press, grinder, pruning and picking equipment, to develop a website and to start an ‘adopt a tree’ program aimed at keeping local fruit trees healthy.

“We have been amazed at the amount of interest the project has generated,” said Helen Sander, Wildsight Program Manager. “We started with one pruning workshop and ended up filling a second session.”

The Community Food Action Initiative is a community grant program that encourages communities to use novel approaches to overcome their unique barriers to accessing healthy, safe and nutritious foods.

For more information on the community projects:

The Apple Capture Project | Wildsight

Kootenay Local Agriculture Library

For more information on the CFAI program, food security and food preservation:

http://www.interiorhealth.ca/choose-health.aspx?id=11690

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