Valley First

Stories of Feed the Valley

For six years our local communities have tackled hunger by raising food, funds and awareness for local food banks through the Feed the Valley program. We’re thrilled to have raised $1 million for food banks, but even more amazing are the stories of people coming together to support their local food bank in creative and often surprising ways.

Hampers for the holidays in Kelowna

Through the Feed The Valley program we’ve had the privilege of participating in many charitable activities, but few events are – in the words of Nicole Diachuk, our Downtown Kelowna branch manager — “the true spirit of volunteering and rewarding in ways that cannot be expressed in words.”

Each year Valley First staff join forces with volunteers at the Central Okanagan Food Bank to provide food bank clients with Christmas hampers, transportation and hot chocolate. Despite the typical -10c temperatures volunteers turn out in droves for the opportunity to give assistance at a time when it’s most needed. In 2015 alone, 1,240 clients over three days received hampers that included a wide selection of food, from potatoes, carrots and onions to ham, cereal, bread, soups, gravy, canned fruit, jelly and even uplifting chocolate bars to make the holiday season feel that bit more special.

“To see the community’s generosity culminate in such an incredible expression of support, you can’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride for what we can accomplish together”, says Diachuk. We couldn’t say it better ourselves.

FoodShare brings joy in Kamloops

Everyone can agree that the landfill is the last place food should end up. Yet the reality for many food retailers is that there isn’t another economically viable option for their expired or close to expired food. But where people see a problem, the Kamloops food bank saw a solution. In partnership with the Kamloops Food Policy Council the food bank set up FoodShare, a recovery program that collects close-dated perishable food items from 19 local donors and distributes it to almost 7,000 clients and 42 local agencies. The program ensures that clients have access to produce, bread, dairy, eggs and baked goods twice a week.

While the logistics of running a program are mind-boggling, it’s nothing compared to astonishing five million pounds of food that has been diverted from the landfill since 2006. And if the food has expired, FoodShare delivers it to local farmers as animal food, ensuring nothing goes to waste.

Storage Warz in Armstrong

Often, a little creativity can lead to big results. This was never truer than it was for project Storage Warz. In May 2012 and 2013 Valley First partnered with the Armstrong Food Bank, operated by Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, to run two events modeled after the TV Series Storage Wars. Held at Spall Storage, a Valley First member’s business, Storage Warz saw a live auction of the contents of ten storage compartments. Local businesses each sponsored a storage locker and filled them with donated items for auction and food donations were also collected in lieu of admission. More than 23 Valley First volunteers participated in the two events with the Enderby & District Financial team taking part in the second year. And the result? An incredible $12,000 was raised and over 700 pounds of food collected in support of Feed the Valley and the Armstrong Food Bank.

Starlight a highlight in Enderby

Who doesn’t like a movie night under the stars on a summer’s night? And it’s even better if it’s free. Since 2014, the annual Feed the Valley Starlight Drive-in movie night has become a signature food and fundraising event for Feed Enderby & District Food Bank. Each year, over 300 eager movie-goers receive free drive-in tickets in exchange for donating cash and non-perishable food items. In total, over 500 pounds of food and $1,039 have been collected. In 2016 we look forward to more fundraising and family-friendly flicks with Starlight.

Staying open in Keremeos

Every community is nuanced and faces different challenges when it chooses to help those in need. For the Cawston and Area food bank, their challenge was to receive enough food and funds to remain a viable support program for their clients. When Valley First launched Feed The Valley in 2010, the program was able to deliver enough food and funds so that the Cawston food bank could stay open.

Food bank representative, Ingrid Percival, shares her perspective. “Without Valley First’s help, Cawston Food bank would not be able to function as well as we are. Their support through the Feed the Valley program has been instrumental in us being able to stay open month to month and meet the increased needs in our community“.

Bringing the food to the people of Lumby

Since 2014, our Lumby branch staff have participated in the Seniors Meals on Wheels program, assisting with the preparation and serving of lunch to seniors as part of Valley First’s Make a Difference Days week of volunteerism. The meals also provide an opportunity for companionship between seniors and volunteers. 12 volunteers have contributed more than 20 hours in support of this Lumby community program with the team putting in a full day in 2015.

Other fundraising in Lumby includes a Beat the Winter Blues barbeque and the Lumby Days’ Dunk Tank. Lori Levi, a former Feed the Valley champion, shares, “I learned that if you have an idea just go for it, because no matter how much is raised it all matters. Once you start something it usually leads to a chain reaction for good things to follow.”

A wealth of creativity in Peachland

As is depicted in a photo recreating the infamous Beatles Abbey Road album cover, the Peachland team has been highly creative with Feed the Valley fundraising. Since 2010, $16,192 was raised and 560 pounds of food collected through branch fundraising initiatives such as pumpkin carving contests, summer beach theme events and raffles. The Vintage Hills branch team continue to support the Peachland community through staff payroll contributions and an on-going annual $1,000 donation.

Do I hear $2,000? Going Once, Twice … SOLD to the Oliver Food Bank!

$2,000 is how much was raised in October 2014 through a silent auction Feed the Valley fundraiser held in the Oliver branch. This three-day event was led by Oliver branch employee, Samantha Zeeman, and Lori Falkenholt who canvassed local businesses and gathered almost 60 donated items from multiple bottles of wine and gift certificates to hotel suites and even small kitchen appliances.

“We were very impressed at how willing local businesses were to step up and help us raise funds for such a great cause”, says Samantha Zeeman. “Many had heard great things about our relationship with the Oliver Food Bank and that Feed the Valley is such a valuable contributor to our local community. In fact, many businesses donated three to four items.”

Nourishing through education in Penticton

The issue of food security is complex and many food banks take creative approaches to tackling hunger. The Penticton food bank is no exception. In the past five years the food bank has undertaken pilot projects to educate clients on how to nourish themselves well on a limited income. The food bank introduced community kitchen and garden teaching experiences as well as teaching aids for clients and their extended families. Valley First staff relished the opportunity to donate their time in the kitchens, gardens, orchards and fields. “Their willingness to be involved and work side by side with the people we are serving is rare and appreciated”, says Barb Stewart of the Penticton food bank.

In partnership with Valley First, the Penticton food bank also produced 1,000 copies of five FOOD FOR ALL LEGUME books. These guide books, complete with packages of legumes and lentils teach people how to nourish themselves on the less expensive form of protein offered in legumes and lentils.

Food bank clients tell Stewart that these offerings of learning experiences in the community kitchen and garden are a dignified response to their food insecurity dilemma. The focus on fresh, healthy food makes them feel loved and cared about.

You’re never too young for big ideas in Vernon

In February 2012, Coldstream Elementary students were set a challenge by the school to find ways to support a local community partner. Grade 7 student Weston Vanderveen decided that he would make a difference by holding a lunchtime dance at the school and collecting non-perishable food donations as payment for admission. With the dance clearly a hit with the students Weston donated a full cart of collected food – a 150 lbs in total – to the Feed the Valley program via the Vernon branch. All of the food was distributed locally by the Vernon Salvation Army food bank. Now in Grade 11, Weston has gone on to give back on a global level by recently participating in a Panamanian Students Without Borders program.

Watch Weston talk about why it matters to support those in need

Saving Christmas day in Princeton

Throughout the communities we serve our branch and insurance locations run a Feed the Valley Holiday Giving Program where members and staff are encouraged to take a holiday tag from a tree and return it with a gift or food item to help a child or senior in need during the holiday season. In mid-December last year, a member of the Princeton food bank team visited Norma, Princeton branch’s Feed the Valley champion, in great distress because an arrangement to sponsor a local family in particularly dire straits had fallen through.

With a smile on her face, Norma showed him the gift items and food already donated to the community through the branch and offered to use those donations to support the sponsored family. The food bank team member was overcome with emotion when he saw the Christmas tree at the branch loaded with gifts and the Feed the Valley shopping cart full of non-perishable food. In total, three shopping carts of food and over 30 presents were donated to the Princeton Food Bank. Once these items were provided to the family in need, the balance went to the food bank for distribution to other families during the holiday season.

Getting Lean in West Kelowna

Food banks by their very nature are highly enterprising and hard working in their efforts to overcome all manner of obstacles in order to feed their community. And often they call on their community partners to help them find solutions. Such was the case for the Westside Community Food Bank that was running a food bank in a refurbished residential duplex. During a visit in 2013 with Westside Community Food Bank’s executive director, Lenetta Parry, she explained to Valley First staff the challenges of their physical location and our continuous service improvement team jumped at the chance to help by applying the Lean methodology Valley First uses to improve its processes and service delivery.

The team was led by regional manager Paulo Araujo and after consultation they determined that food storage was a critical issue for the food bank. With the support of his South Okanagan management team, the marketing and community investment team and Westside food bank volunteers they got to work to find a more efficient way to store food at the site and help this non-profit organization increase its capacity to serve its clients.

Over three days the Lean team discarded 651 lbs of expired food, saved 1,800 lbs from being discarded by marking it for immediate distribution, increased useable floor space by 42 per cent and improved storage safety, saving $12,000 annually.


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