Impact Stories

Lower Similkameen Community Food Hub Farm & Garden brings culturally preferred food for enhanced health and well-being

The Food Hub provides food to those who need it most in the Lower Similkameen region through its initiatives, such as gathering and preserving traditional foods.

Due to a lack of access to traditional hunting and foraging areas, in combination with the longer-term impacts of colonialism on lands and water courses, Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) community members are at risk of food insecurity.

The Lower Similkameen Community Food Hub Farm & Garden provides food to those who need it most in the region through its community-led garden and food access initiatives, such as gathering and preserving traditional foods. Located on Smalqmix (Similkameen) lands in the South Okanagan, the Lower Similkameen Community Farm & Garden is a United Way BC Regional Community Food Hub.

Knowledge transfer and economic development to support Indigenous sovereignty

The farm upon which the hub has been created has existed for over a decade but previously lacked funding and operational support. Knowledge Keeper Dixon (photo) is leading the Hub’s development, which now requires funding for the construction of a processing building. This building will house the equipment and provide facilities for staff and volunteers, and for surrounding Indigenous communities to process their food.

The Lower Similkameen Community Food Hub Farm & Garden will engage in activities centred around cultivating food collaboratively with the community, nurturing native plant growth, imparting essential skills through community education, establishing a central hub for communal gatherings, and fostering sustainable economic opportunities such as food processing and operating a fruit stand. There will be space for Elders to share their knowledge about Indigenous food systems, food production, and processing to build community health and well-being. 

The development of the hub is phased to allow for managed growth over time and to be community-led throughout to ensure its lasting sustainability and delivery of multiple benefits to the community, such as training, employment, business opportunities, and supporting Indigenous food chain participation through direct sales and production of value-added products. The processing building is vital in enabling this work.

United Way BC Regional Community Food Hubs

Through a community-led approach, our Regional Community Food Hubs have connected over 100 organizations across BC to help over 228,000 people access the nourishment they need and deserve.

Through the Food Infrastructure Grant program (FIG), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, which has generously contributed funding, United Way BC is able to launch Regional Food Hubs, such as the Lower Similkameen Community Food Hub Farm & Garden. This initiative aims to enhance year-round accessibility to vital, fresh, and culturally preferred food, thereby contributing to the overall health and well-being of the entire community. “The program works with rural, remote, and First Nation communities, like the Penticton and Lower Similkameen Indian Bands, to address the specific needs of local communities facing increased food insecurity,” says Kristi Rintoul, Community Impact & Investment Manager at United Way BC.

More than fuller plates, we work towards systemic changes that lead to a better future

The vision for the Lower Similkameen Community Food Hub Farm & Garden includes fostering employment and educational prospects for local community members and students enrolled at the Lower Similkameen Indian Band School. This encompasses serving as a platform to exhibit and exchange Indigenous farming practices. As a result, this inclusive, educational, and community-centred food system model has the potential to consequentially address other factors that contribute to food insecurity, including income inequities, mental health and well-being, homelessness, addiction, and more. This model can also be replicated in communities beyond the LSIB to sustain health for future generations to come.

“When we think about food security, we also have to think about what we call the household food security, which is actually the ability of individuals or families to be able to afford and access all the food that they would choose for their family to have on the table,” says Alžběta Sabová, Director of Food Security, United Way BC. “So, when we talk about food insecurity, it’s the inability of those people to do so.” 

United Way BC’s Food Security initiatives are a meaningful step toward sustainability. They are vital in ensuring hubs like the Lower Similkameen Community Food Hub Farm & Garden continue to meet the needs of community members. “It’s looking at addressing some of the power dynamics and the challenges that we’ve seen and the cuts in the system of how and where people access food,” says Alzbeta. 

Fostering healthy and caring communities

Thanks to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, United Way BC Food Security Initiatives are funded to help British Columbians access healthy, nutritious, culturally preferable food.

United Way BC’s 22 Regional Community Food Hubs work to ensure every community member has food on the table year-round to support their wellness and ability to thrive. Based on cultures and traditions, they lead to improved quality of life for children, families, seniors, and individuals.

See how Regional Community Food Hubs are improving food access across BC. Read our first Annual Report.

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