A pop up garden is under construction at Komasket Park, with 60 boxes, for the Okanagan Indian Band’s Food Security Initiative. (OKIB photo)

Okanagan Indian band lends a hand with food amid pandemic

COVID-19 prompts food security concerns, and action, among First Nations

Food security has taken root for Okanagan Indian Band members in need.

The band will begin distributing food hampers to members on or around the 15th of every month until the pandemic conditions change.

“One of chief and council’s priority areas during the pandemic is food security,” said Chief Byron Louis. “We are launching the monthly food hamper program to ensure that any households that need food, get food. And for the longer term we have planted pop-up gardens to grow fresh produce for our food programs.”

The concept behind the food hampers is to help households supplement their food caches in order to move toward food security and the peace of mind of knowing that your family has access to good food.

Food hampers will be distributed by household. To sign up for a food hamper for your household, call 250-241-9790 or email fsi@okanagan.org. The distribution will be moved to Head of the Lake Hall, which has better vehicle access, can accommodate more traffic and allows for better physical distancing and has a larger work area for the crews.

The service will be pick-up only as we do not have resources to deliver to off-reserve homes. We will deliver to those members with comprised health or other special needs, and elders, and will include members who require transportation supports for Duck Lake.

The first distribution gets underway May 14 and 15 with designated pick-up times to reduce traffic congestion and improve the safety of workers and volunteers. Households can expect a telephone call one to two days prior to distribution for pickup timeframes. Families can designate someone else in the family to pick up on their behalf via email 24 hours prior to the distribution date.

For pre- and post-natal clients, the distribution of supplies and baby products including formula, diapers, wipes, etc. will now be arranged through the OKIB Community Health Nurse. Expectant and new mothers can call the OKIB Nurse Hotline, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 250-241-7595.

The food hamper program is part of the Food Security Initiative (FSI), which also features a pop-up garden to ensure longer term food security. The pop up garden will be in full operational at Komasket Park in the next week or so with 60 boxes. This location offers watering access and a fully fenced-in green space with functioning service gates. There’s a ton of work involved in setting up the garden but as our band members master growers have been telling us, “once you properly set up, the rest take cares of itself.” The soil is in, seedlings are sprouting. Seeds and plants were chosen under the guidance of our master gardener/horticulturist.

There is plenty of growing season left, and we will have bountiful and plentiful produce harvest, but it’s very important and well worth the extra time to get the soils and set-up correct.

And finally, we’re not proceeding, at least in the short term, with hothouses or greenhouses.

Educational awareness and training for agriculture and agri-foods is another area we are investigating. The education would include the short and long term effects of the pandemic. In the short term we will not be proceeding with hot or green house and this will be on the back burner for the interim.

The OKIB is also conducting community resource mapping to determine which members can offer skills including but not limited to these categories:

• hunters

• fishers

• fruit and vegetable gardeners

• farmers (livestock, livestock bearing milk, live poultry to include those bearing eggs, etc.)

• traditional food harvesters

• knowledge keepers of Food Preservation to include: canning, drying, freezing etc.

• knowledge keepers of traditional root cellars for cold season storage.

READ MORE: Housing develops for Okanagan Indian band members

READ MORE: Okanagan Indian Band asks visitors to ‘stay away’ during COVID-19


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