Valley First

Growing Food and Growing Futures

Valley First grant helps Gardengate program expand in Kamloops
September 10, 2013

Penticton, B.C.—The Open Door Group’s Gardengate program contributes up to 20,000 pounds of organic produce to the Kamloops community each year, providing fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables to low-income families and individuals.

The produce donations are distributed to local charities and food share organizations, including New Life Mission, the Salvation Army and Kamloops Food Bank. However, harvest contributions have been limited due to funding levels. Now, with a $5,100 grant from the Valley First Community Endowment administered by the First West Foundation, the Gardengate program is expanding to provide even more support to the community.

“We are thankful organizations such as Valley First understand the importance of food security for all families and individuals in our communities,” says Alona Puehse, director of public relations, Open Door Group. “The grant directly supports our priority to expand who we donate produce to, as well as addresses the gap of some individuals being unable to access community agencies for food.”

Gardengate is a partnership project between Open Door Group and the Kamloops Food Policy Council. A collective goal of the program is to increase the availability of healthy food to people living in poverty in our community.

A simultaneous component of Gardengate is its innovative horticulture program that aims to promote a healthy diet and an active life for people living with mental health conditions. Gardengate provides rehabilitation, life skills and vocational training for participants, while providing volunteer opportunities for members of the community. Participants and volunteers increase their own food security by being able to take home organic produce in exchange for their help in the garden.

“Our goal is ‘Growing Food and Growing Futures’ through diverse and supportive programs for people with mental health conditions, while contributing to the health and wellness of members of our community,” says Naomi Bullock, program director, Open Door Group.

The Valley First grant allows Gardengate to expand the number of agencies it donates to, as well as initiate an outreach donation program to individuals who are unable to access the agencies due to barriers, specifically seniors and people with disabilities.

“Hunger and food safety issues are all too real in our communities,” says Donna Erickson, branch manager at the Valley First Kamloops branch. “Through our Feed the Valley program, we’ve shown a terrific commitment to fighting hunger. It’s tremendous to see the community endowment grant strengthening a like-minded partner. Healthy individuals and families are the backbone of strong, sustainable communities.”

The Valley First Community Endowment was created in 2010 with an initial $1 million donation from Valley First as a lasting legacy of community support. Each year, First West Credit Union donates a portion of its profits to grow the Endowment. Since established, $82,000 in grants have been presented to charities and initiatives helping children, families, and youth at risk of hunger throughout Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valley communities.

About Valley First

Valley First is a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union, which has 40 branches and 29 insurance offices throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Kitimat and Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. Led by Launi Skinner, First West has $7.1 billion in assets under administration, more than 171,000 members and close to 1,300 employees.

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