On April 21st, 2016 the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council (COFPC) hosted an event called From Field to Fork to Research and launched the Food Quilt. This event drew a big crowd of people passionate about the health of our local food system. In fact, people were so passionate that a little food action project bloomed that very night from a few new connections.
This project, the Tomato Project, will engage people with mental health and/or substance use challenges in the joyful process of cooking with ingredients straight out of the garden. The players are diverse, but united by a common goal to increase access to fresh local food and the skills needed to process and preserve it.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is coordinating the project. The Bridge Youth and Family Services Society offered up garden beds and water at a house on Cadder avenue called The Parent Place. Two nurses, Betty Baker and Donna Christison, along with help from a third volunteer, Laurie, pitched in to plant and tend the garden all season. Dallas Miller from Pacific Northwest Garden Supply arranged for donations of compost and materials including soaker hoses and an irrigation timer. Chef Michael Buffet volunteered to help harvest the veggies and also to lead the cooking and preserving class at the Wellness Development Centre of CMHA in the fall.
This project is a good example of the importance of a well-connected community to make positive change happen. The intention behind the Food Quilt strategy is to do just that: stitch together patches of the food system that already exists in the Central Okanagan so we can nurture new relationships that grow into action.