Another year has come and gone, and the learning and growing we experience at Land to Table persistently keep us on our toes. We remain genuinely grateful, interested, and engaged in local food systems work.

In last year’s reflection blog post, I used the phrase ‘settling in’ to describe Land to Table in 2022. During that year, we further clarified our role as a network through capacity building and fostering connections across many different organizations and sectors. We worked to ensure that more of the food grown here reaches the people who live here. We have always emphasized that without local farmers and their ability to grow farm businesses, our food security is limited. For that reason we will continue to draw links between the local food economy and community food security.

For example, we have added some new content to our website that better shares how we define our work (as local food value chain development and community food security). You may have noticed some much needed updates to our website this past year (but more on that next month). 

In 2023, we saw Land to Table ‘expanding’ into new project territory, both literally and figuratively. We explored new partnership opportunities cross-regionally, because food systems naturally extend beyond political boundaries. Furthermore, we sought access to infrastructure funding to explore expanding our operations and programming in 2024-25. Read on to learn more about our 2023 accomplishments.

L2T 2023 Projects and Impact

  • Completed a Market Opportunity Study in partnership with KPU’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (an ongoing partner), and a local farmer/consultant – highlighting the agricultural landscape and market potential in our region for small and medium sized producers to supply institutional and retail (wholesale) market channels. Findings suggest there are many barriers for farmers to access these markets –  See our webinar and report to learn more.
  • Undertook a Rural Food Banks Study in response to the escalating challenges faced by rural food banks in Sicamous, Revelstoke, Golden, and Invermere. This collaborative study was initiated to explore joint strategies for efficient food procurement within budget constraints and unprecedented community demand. Our early findings suggest that new models (outside of traditional food banking) are needed to feed the hungry in a rural and remote context. And local food supply may help. Final report to be released in March
  • L2T continued to support advancement of the BX Ranchlands Plan, as guided by the Regional District of the North Okanagan, Electoral Area Directors B and C. We engaged with 7 stakeholder groups to define site infrastructure needs and program development opportunities. As a result, the RDNO will roll out site infrastructure development over the next two years, beginning with irrigation and fencing. L2T will complete a site policy document, and collaborate to attract farmers and programming through land-leasing.
  • Through a continued partnership with the Good Food Box, increased the 60+ Food Box delivery to a group of 70 seniors (up from 60 individuals last year). Each month these seniors receive a small good food box with added eggs, bread and a local farm fresh item. Box deliveries are up to 840 (from 500 boxes in 2021, and 720 boxes in 2022). Additional local food items purchased from farmers (beyond the Good Food Box produce) totals $6200.
  • L2T continues to work with UBCO in the third year of their local food purchasing pilot project. As a result of last year’s Local Food Values Dialogue series discussion, UBC is exploring ways to further commit to local food purchasing through the development of growing contracts with farmers (ongoing). Local food purchasing from UBCO totaled 27,500 lbs. in 2023 (including January) up from 19,300 lbs. in the 2022-23 academic year.

Community Food Security Impact

As a United Way, Regional Community Food Hub (RCFH) Steward organization, L2T directly supports three local organizations with funding and coordination time to increase their program delivery capacity. Through ‘hub’ activities L2T also engaged with more than 40 organizations (regionally and cross-regionally) to understand challenges, share opportunities/resources, and connect to local food sources. The following highlights what we have achieved together: 

  • In 2023, approx. $30,000 in RCFH funding supported our spoke organizations:
    • Okanagan Indian Band expanded their community garden efforts to a full-scale ranch- Sun Valley Ranch. Funding supported a ranch coordinator who was responsible for assisting in the preparation of the land and growing food in the ranch’s first season. 
    • The Good Food Box implemented an online ordering system through a new website. The upgrade is streamlining the 1200+ monthly food box orders, and helping the GFB meet increasing community demand for the program.
    • Whitevalley Resource Centre continued their Family Meal-kit program, delivering over 600 meals, over 4 months to 30 families in the Lumby/Cherryville area. Meals focused on nutrition, were locally sourced (when available) and are accompanied by video tutorials to increase food literacy. 
  • These same spoke organizations delivered 13,611 food boxes, 1000 meals, and 20 workshops/learning opportunities to the North Okanagan community.
  • In addition to supporting these three organizations, Land to Table engaged with 43 different community organizations, through one-one meetings, virtual and in-person events, presentations, grant-writing discussions, social media, and newsletters. We have supported partners through coordination time, resource sharing, and network connections. For example our partners include School District 22 and Turning Points who are now purchasing local food through their programs. 
  • The L2T hub Coordinator supported 13 grant applications for 10 organizations to fund regional food security programs and infrastructure projects. Support included writing grants on behalf of organizations, consulting/reviewing applications, and writing letters of support.
    • As a result, in 2023, hub partners received more than $67,000
    • 11 more supported grants await approval in 2024
  • In total, as a Regional Community Food Hub for the North Okanagan, Land to Table facilitated an investment of over $120,000 toward community food programming in our region.

These projects and partnerships outlined above represent progress toward an ongoing commitment to support local farmers, grow the local food economy, build local food value chains, improve community food security, and increase access to nutritious local food. We are beyond excited for what 2024 will hold and hope to share bigger announcements in that regard in the months to come.

If you have read to the end of this ‘reflection’ – we truly thank you for your interest and hope you will continue to follow our work!

Warmest regards and gratitude,

-Liz Blakeway (L2T Network Director)