Enactus OC Green team from Vernon comprised of coach Andrew Klingel and students Mitchell Vanlerberg, Karsten Ensz, Abby Lagerquist and Macy Burke. (Photo contributed)

OC Vernon students earn top prize at Enactus Regionals

The team will showcase the project at the Enactus Canada National Exposition in Vancouver in May.

A team of business students from Okanagan College’s Vernon campus notched one of three first-place finishes for OC at Enactus Regionals over the weekend.

Their idea, which is already feeding an Aboriginal daycare, a homeless shelter, an elementary school and an after-school program, has earned them a spot at Nationals.

Vernon’s Macy Burke, Karsten Ensz, Abby Lagerquist and Mitchell Vanlerberg took top spot in the Scotiabank Environmental Challenge, sharing top honours with their neighbours from UBC Okanagan, and beating out tough competitors Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary.

Related: Okanagan College students capture silver medal at competition

Related: Okanagan College achieves second LEED Platinum award

“The teams have proved that achieving big goals is made possible through hard work, dedication and commitment,” said Macy Burke, who is also Co-President of Enactus OC.

“Over the last several months, the students worked endlessly to perfect their scripts and presentations which became apparent in our results. I am truly honoured to co-lead such an incredible group of kind, smart, and like-minded individuals. The endless support from our faculty advisors, school administration, community partners, donors and alumni is what makes our team so powerful, and for that we couldn’t be more grateful. With the National Exposition just around the corner, we’re now motivated to work even harder to achieve our next big goals.”

The green team presented on a new project called FruitSnaps, which piloted this past fall in partnership with the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners. The students came up with the idea of using leftover fruit from North Okanagan orchards that otherwise would go to waste to make healthy snacks for elementary students in SD 22. The team also recently worked with the Okanagan Indian Band to provide a daycare facility with 450 servings of FruitSnaps.

In addition to feeding hundreds of youth in the Vernon area, the project has already had an international impact. A shipment of more than 2,200 servings of FruitSnaps was recently delivered to Guatemala.

“The Okanagan is known for its fruitful produce but with the abundance naturally comes waste,” said fourth-year OC Business student Abby Lagerquist. “Many farmers in the region don’t have the time or the money to pick all of the fruit which results in thousands of pounds of unused fruit.”

The project addresses fruit waste and another issue that effects every community, hunger. A study by the Breakfast Club of Canada found one in five children go to school hungry due to lack of access to nutritious food.

FruitSnaps are made from 100 per cent real fruit and have no added sugars or preservatives. In addition to a tasty snack, the children also learn about healthy eating, and how they are helping to reduce fruit waste.

“OC Enactus always finds a way to innovate,” said Andrew Klingel, the team’s coach and a professor with the College’s School of Business. “The pilot phase of this project has already diverted 1,500 lbs of fruit waste and turned it into a healthy snack for those in need. I can’t wait to see where the project goes from here, and I think it is a shining example of Okanagan College’s mission to transform lives and communities.”

“The results at Regionals speak to the remarkable dedication and effort the students expend on these projects, and where you can really find evidence of that is in our surrounding communities,” said William Gillett, Dean of the School of Business. “The projects they’re working on benefit small businesses, non-profits, community groups and individuals. They advance causes like financial literacy, entrepreneurship and sustainability all around us and they also provide invaluable hands-on learning for students.”

The students are eager to compete again – this time on the national stage – when they will showcase the project at the Enactus Canada National Exposition in Vancouver in May.

The project got a boost when it debuted at Nationals last year, where it claimed the Hellmann’s Food Security Challenge for Best Project Solution. The accolade saw Enactus OC bring home a $3,000 grant to help bring FruitSnaps to the classroom to benefit hundreds of students last fall during the pilot.

Related: Okanagan College seeks to build student housing in Vernon, Salmon Arm, Kelowna

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