How a thriving gleaning abundance program has grown into a social enterprise
By Greg Unger, KFPC Social Enterprise Coordinator and
Sandra Frangiadakis, KFPC Food Action Lead
As we roll into autumn and the season of Thanksgiving, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the abundance of the summer and appreciation for a new project. In July of this year, Greg joined up with the Kamloops Food Policy Council’s Gleaning Abundance Program to help with a new Social Enterprise program. The Gleaning Abundance Program connects homeowners with fruit trees and volunteers who can do the harvest. A portion goes to the owner, a portion to the volunteers, and a portion to charity. At certain times during the season, the Gleaning Abundance Program had a happy little problem, though -- too much fruit! The homeowners rarely took more than a bucket or two, the volunteers would take a bucket each, and so much was left for charity that the Gleaning Abundance Program couldn’t always find homes for all of it.
Over time, the idea of starting a social enterprise was born. What if the surplus fruit was processed and sold to help make the gleaning program more sustainable? Money raised could help fund our program and, in turn, we could harvest even more trees! What if we invited volunteers to help us do the processing in return for a share of the fruit? Through a City of Kamloops grant, a social enterprise accelerator organization out of Kelowna, Purppl, was enlisted to help us get the project off the ground. We were assigned business mentors to guide us through the process and our social enterprise grew rapidly from an idea to something fully realized.
We have two types of workshops: food transformation workshops at the Interior Community Services kitchen at the Mount Paul Community Food Centre, and food literacy workshops at the Boys and Girls Club across the street from the Food Centre. And hoo boy, the workshops have been fun! Every transformation workshop is an experiment – What can we do with even more apricots? What’s the best method for making apple sauce? How do you vacuum seal a hot liquid without spilling it all over the kitchen? Every workshop with the Boys & Girls Club was a riot. We borrowed a bicycle blender from TRU and taught youth how to clean, cut, and blend fruit for their own smoothies. It was messy, it was noisy, it was energetic and I look forward to more!
As Thanksgiving approaches, there is much to be thankful for in terms of how far we’ve come in such a short period. But there is so much more to do. At the Kamloops Food Policy Council, we’ve barely even scratched the surface of what this project can accomplish!
Volunteer with, or learn more about, KFPC, GAP and their Social Enterprise at kamloops foodpolicycouncil.com, by calling 250-851-6111, or emailing se@kamloops foodpolicycouncil.com.