One year after launching Fernie Fresh Food Share, Nicole Knauf has prevented 11,839 pounds of food from being discarded into the landfill.
Thanks to this initiative, individuals in the Fernie area who are struggling financially do not have to go hungry.
Every day Nicole makes her rounds of Fernie, stopping by grocery stores, restaurants and cafeterias, where she will collect food that would have otherwise been thrown away. Everything she collects is still good to eat, however, it has most likely passed the ‘best before’ date. She then takes the food back to the Salvation Army where she prepares it to be collected by individuals in need.
Any donated items that are not safe to eat are donated to farmers to use as feed for their livestock.
This addition of fresh food adds another option to the Salvation Army food bank, aside from canned non-perishables.
“I had no idea how it was going to go in the beginning, and it’s surpassed my expectations,” said Knauf.
She says the response to the addition of fresh food has been great, with almost everything she collects being taken. According to the Salvation Army, as many as 40 individuals benefit from the system, every day. And every day, Knauf receives positive responses.
“It’s really expensive to buy healthy food in Fernie, anywhere really, but especially in Fernie it seems,” she said.
“Some of these people have even said to me, I don’t remember the last time I’ve had a fresh fruit or veggie, because I can’t afford it. And so now they have access to it, all the time.”
Knauf also receives much praise from businesses, whom she said were relieved they no longer had to throw their food in the trash.
This project has been in the works since November 2017, and Knauf officially opened on January 8, 2018.
Knauf currently collects food regularly from Save On Foods, Starbucks, 7-11, Crumbs Cakery, Freshies and Red Apple. There are several other businesses such as the Loaf, Fernie Cattle Company, Blue Toque, Bridge Bistro and Yamagoya that occasionally donate.
The past year has been relatively smooth sailing for Knauf. The only setback has been trying to find grants to continue to fund her program. However, this has not been an issue yet, so Knauf is looking towards what she hopes will be a fruitful future.
Knauf thanked the Salvation Army for allowing her to use their space, as well as the businesses and volunteers who have helped make this program a success.
Ashley Taylor is another individual in Fernie dedicated to reducing food waste and promoting sustainable, comprehensive agriculture.
Taylor’s program, Valley Vitals, focuses on collecting food that can no longer be consumed by people, and uses it as compost and feed on her farm. In this way, it complements the Fernie Fresh Food Share.
From prep cook scraps to used paper towel, Taylor collects from restaurants anything that would otherwise be thrown away, and puts it to good use.
Since Taylor launched her program in the summer of 2017, she has composted over 18,000 pounds of food.
It started with a small partnership between her and Big Bang Bagels, but has since expanded to collect food from The Blue Toque, The Brickhouse Bar and Grill, The Curry Bowl and Nevados.
“I had finished a permaculture course, and I just wanted to see if I could create a business in Fernie that was based on environmental sustainability and food production within the Valley,” said Taylor.
“I came home with a box of chicks (baby chickens) and I was able to find some land to use, and I started the composting program.”
Taylor collects food from businesses twice a week.
So far the feedback from staff has been very positive.
“It is demoralizing when you have to throw out all this food,” said Taylor.
In the past year Taylor has succeeded in creating an environment that processess and breaks down the food waste into compost. She currently cares for 75 chickens, and by next summer she hopes to have 150.
Taylor hopes to expand with a market garden, fueled by the compost, as well as selling the birds for meat.
Her goal with this is to create a local source of ethical, sustainable food.
In the coming season Taylor will be looking for five locals to help with the market garden pilot project. She hopes that this eventually becomes a regularly-producing greenhouse.
To learn more, follow Valley Vitals on Facebook @ValleyVitalsFernie.