Back in 1995, one of the Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) co-founders, community nutritionist extraordinaire Laura Kalina, came up with the idea of the Food Security Continuum as a way to think about strategies for combating food insecurity. It is still a useful tool for thinking about our food security work today and the KFPC recognizes the need for work at all three stages of the continuum.
Some KFPC staff and board members focus on the big picture, such as long term policy development to redesign our food system. Others are more involved in community capacity-building programs, such as our Gleaning Abundance Program (GAP), Seed Library, or kitchen and garden workshops. However, when it comes to short-term relief—the work on the frontlines of food insecurity—we have not been directly involved. We certainly recognize and applaud the many individuals and organizations in our community who are taking on that work.
One such frontline organization is Kamloops Reach, formerly known as Love Hard. We first became aware of this group when a few of their volunteers showed up at one of our monthly KFPC networking meetings and mentioned that they would love some donations of fruit from our gleaning program to include in their food outreach program. We were happy to oblige and are pleased they have become regular attendees at our monthly potlucks.
Kamloops Reach is totally run by volunteers and many of those involved have first-hand experience with food insecurity. Once a month or so, they collect donations and prepare a meal at one of their volunteer’s homes, then deliver whatever they’ve made to hungry people all over the city. Depending on donations, it might be a sandwich, a bowl of soup, or a hearty stew that is delivered.
Kamloops Reach works at the extreme end of the food security continuum. There are no barriers to their services and they often work with marginalized individuals who have either fallen through the cracks, have no means of transportation, or are otherwise unable to access services at other agencies. As well as food, they help out with warm clothes, blankets, and offer volunteer opportunities for people with disabilities. Their Facebook page often has posts with requests for specific needs, such as blankets or a batch of cookies, which can usually be picked up by Kamloops Reach volunteers. Anyone can become a “Reacher” and help out as they are able. The program relies on these donations from the community, as well as a few local businesses that regularly donate produce or other ingredients needed to prepare their offerings.
Another amazing donor and volunteer-driven frontlines program is PIT Stop. For over 20 years, revolving teams of volunteers have prepared and served a free Sunday afternoon meal at the Kamloops United Church each and every week of the year. Teams may be put together by local businesses, church groups, Rotary clubs, or families and friends, and are usually supported by a crew of PIT Stop regulars—individuals who show up pretty much every Sunday to lend a hand. Under the expert coordination of Rick Windjack, the program is so well-run that the 2020 schedule is pretty much full already (there may still be a Sunday available in July or August).
It is especially heart-warming to see the way these frontline workers collaborate and support one another. A recent post by Kamloops Reach showed their volunteers delivering extra children’s things that had been donated to PIT Stop over Christmas to the Family Tree Centre, another amazing local community resource, ensuring those items got to where they were needed.
There is important work to do at all stages of the food security continuum and plenty of room for volunteers at each stage. And while we, at the KFPC, are dedicated to combating food insecurity upstream at the policy level, we have decided to try our hand at some frontline work and will be joining the Kamloops Reach team at the May 17 PIT Stop meal. Preparing a meal for 300 or so people will be a new venture for many of us and we look forward to working side-by-side with the well-seasoned volunteers from both of these amazing programs to offer our support to people experiencing food insecurity.
Find Kamloops Reach (@kamloopsreach) and PIT Stop, Kamloops on Facebook. For more information about the Kamloops Food Policy Council, please visit our website at kamloopsfood policycouncil.com or like us on facebook (@KamloopsFood PolicyCouncil).