A food security program helping to feed the Fort St. John food bank is celebrating its second year.

The Northern Environmental Action Team has been operating the Nourish program in support of the Salvation Army since last September, helping sort through 2,500 pounds of food a month from local grocers, and processing it into canned vegetables, jams, salsas, pie fillings, frozen meals and more. Last month, 550 jars were canned and 150 freezer meals were made.

“It’s enormous the impact that we’ve had here,” said NEAT’s food security co-ordinator Pauline Bolen. “It’s tiring but fulfilling to be able to nourish people by giving them food. That’s a big thing in this world.

NEAT partnered with the Salvation Army to deliver the program, and operates out of the food bank kitchen on 100 Street. 

The Nourish team sorts donations from the Salvation Army’s perishable food recovery program into fresh produce that can be given out right away and others that can be canned. Donated meats such as chicken are cooked and mixed with rice and vegetables for a ready-to-heat meal.

“That’s what Nourish then takes and creates a useable, shelf-stable product with,” said Bolen. “Those shelf stable products can be sauces, jams, canned fruit, freezer meals. We make anything and everything.”

Around 1,000 pounds of fresh produce is distributed to those in need each month.

“It also takes all this produce away from the landfill,” said Bolen. “All this produce that would have been thrown away is now going to feed people in our community.”

Salvation Army Executive Director Cameron Eggie said the need for the food bank has increased during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Since March 1, its has served 4,036 people, and has seen an average of 150 more families accessing its services each month. Before the pandemic, the food bank saw between 350 to 500 people a month. In August, 683 people were served.

“It’s a good partnership for the food bank, because it allows us to take the food that we already collect and then make it into much more, really dignified meals,” said Eggie. “They can create so much out of what’s been donated.”

The program is looking for residents willing to donate their garden fruits and vegetables. To help out, contact Bolen at 250-264-2696 at pauline@neat.ca.

Email Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca.