Backyard Bounty

Solutions to help feed your family and the homeless are as close as your backyard…

Helena Harwood

Helena Harwood

Photo by Photo by Boomer Jerritt

“Most people do not realize that, when it comes to homelessness, poverty, food security… and hunger, we are in a crisis situation in the Comox Valley,” explains Juba.  “My eyes were open to this need about five years ago, when I met a woman who was battling cancer.  She was homeless, sleeping in her car and without adequate food.  Her doctors were forced to stop her cancer treatments because her protein levels were alarmingly low—due to malnutrition.  This is just one sad example of many.  Feeling compassion for the starving children in Ethiopia is one thing, but we have to recognize there are starving adults and children right here in our own community, too.  People are suffering and we can all do something about it.”

Armed with a “can do” attitude, LUSH Valley is working tirelessly to make a difference, providing a hand up, not a hand out to individuals served by the various social agencies in the Valley.  This important work—on a shoestring budget—is accomplished with the help of committed volunteers, strong business and community support, and growing partnerships with funders.  The Vancouver Island Health Authority has been particularly supportive over the past four years.

A tour of LUSH Valley’s new office and warehouse on Piercy Avenue offers a glimpse into the magnitude of what this group is striving to accomplish.  Due to limited financial resources, much-needed renovations to the space have been on-going since they moved here last November, but the construction that is underway shows a dream turning, albeit slowly, into reality.

The 4,000-square-foot building is home to the association’s offices, as well as a resource centre, produce warehousing and sorting facilities, an area designed to accommodate a much-needed walk-in cooler and freezer, as well as a commercial-grade kitchen.  They have even managed to make room to sub-lease office space to the Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society, an organization they work closely with in effort to curb hunger and homelessness.  A generous (and much appreciated) donation of used office furniture from North Island College will soon be delivered.

Program manager Debbie Beddows can barely curb her excitement when she explains what the commercial kitchen will be used for.  It is an initiative that bodes well with LUSH Valley’s motto: “Less about charity, more about self-reliance.”

“The kitchen will be used to help teach people how to can, preserve and dehydrate nutritious fruits and vegetables for consumption year round,” says Beddows.  “We have a number of people in the community who have volunteered to come in and teach others how to can and dehydrate food, as well as help us put up preserves for re-sale, as a fundraiser, to help support our programs. The kitchen may also be rented by community groups interested in holding canning or dehydrating work bees or mentoring sessions.”

Watch for LUSH Valley’s jams, jellies and preserves coming soon to local retailers near you.

LUSH Valley’s efforts to provide nutritious fruits and vegetables to impoverished people are an on-going concern, but Hartwood, Juba, Beddows, fellow board members and LUSH volunteers are optimistic.

Encouraging people to grow more of their own food—both for themselves and to share with others—is one way that we can ensure food security.  It is an issue of importance to individual families and the community as a whole.  It may be only one step, but at least it is a start.

What is Food Security?

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences.
Food security is built on three pillars:

Availability: Having sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
Access: Having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
Use: Appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment, and trade.

Source: World Health Organization. For more information on food security, go to – and click on the video link: ‘Do you know where your food comes from? Eat real. Eat local.’

1126F Piercy Avenue, Courtenay.
FMI on edible landscaping, call Hartwood Garden Designs at 250-898-1288.

2 Responses to Backyard Bounty

  1. Edible garden landscaping is a great way to not only add “curb appeal” to your home, but also food to your pantry. I’m always glad to come across others who believe in edible landscapes as well. Growing your own foods doesn’t have to mean a symmetrical garden plot hidden in the back yard. I have strawberries and low bush blueberries for ground cover. Colorful lettuce and bright lights Swiss Chard make great accents, and if you mix in carrots the light, fern like foliage creates quite the contrast. Raspberry hedges, blueberry shrubs (3 seasons of beauty) and fruit trees create the bones to build upon. I look forward to hearing more about edible landscapes becoming the way most people approach their yards, versus just a trend in a troubled world.
    Great work!

  2. My whole life I have sought meaning, from my mid teens I have been growing a garden getting larger each year, my search for meaning has taken me to the metaphysical where I have since relinquished the chastity of my intellect from skepticism to certainty, yet I find myself still in the physical, that reality has yet to pass, but I see now the path before me in this life, it has been growing right infront of me, the ego stripped clean I appreciate the value of those who hold knowledge and experinece to learn from, in a quote “learn the rules so you kow how to break them properly” all I seek now is a teacher, do you know one in vancouver or its island to learn edible landscaping, permaculture, or green roofs from?