LOCAL FOODS | Growing the Seeds of Change for Healthy Communities: The Williams Lake Food Policy Council

Photo: Tortie Tude

Photo: Tortie Tude

By Michelle Daymond —

As Food Action Co-ordinator, I have been writing articles on behalf of the Williams Lake Food Policy Council (WLFPC) for a number of years now (and it still amazes me that I have actually been in the Cariboo that long!). As I was thinking about what to write this month, I realized it has been a long time since there has been a description of what the Food Policy Council is, who we are, and what we do.

The WLFPC was formed as a result of a Community Food Action Forum held in November, 2006. We are now currently a sub-committee of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Child Development Centre, and work in partnership with the City of Williams Lake, Thompson-Nicola United Way, and Interior Health, as well as a large number of local businesses and, of course, all of our fabulous volunteers.

Over the last eight years, we have been working towards addressing priority issues of food security and helping to create sustainable and healthy communities. The goals of the WLFPC are to:

  • Promote opportunities for skill development and increase self-sufficiency around food
  • Increase production, consumption, and access to locally grown and produced foods
  • Encourage practices and policies which promote healthy eating, active lifestyle, and sustainable communities
  • Grow a viable local food economy

In addition to our goals, the WLFPC uses the framework of the City of Williams Lake’s Official Community Plan to guide our actions, ensuring that we are in alignment with, and have the support of, the City itself. The Food Policy Council is primarily a hands-on, action-oriented group; we hold quarterly meetings to discuss priorities, but our work in the community is ongoing throughout the year.

Perhaps the most current and visible projects of the Food Policy Council are our two successful community gardens. The Cariboo Lodge Community Garden was built in 2010, and offers over 15 gardening spaces for individuals and community groups. This garden has been growing strong for the last four years, and we are looking forward to continuing to beautify and enhance the space in the future.

If you’ve driven down Carson Drive this year, perhaps you’ve wondered what exactly is going on in the previous empty lot below Williams Lake Secondary. This is where the Williams Lake Food Policy Council, with all of our partners, has established a 25,000-square-foot community gardening space. Named the Memory Garden by a high school leadership class, students wanted to create a beautiful space and positive memories for those living in the area. The Memory Garden currently offers over 50 garden beds, which are all lovingly tended by local families and community groups. With a huge thank you to Success by Six, we have begun construction on an area dedicated to local preschools, daycares, and families: our new Lil’ Sprouts Children’s Learning Garden. When complete, this child-friendly space will engage the senses and imagination of our Lil’ Sprouts gardeners.

Prior to 2010, both the Cariboo Lodge site and the Memory Garden were virtually unused patches of bare land, with nothing but a few weeds growing on them. Today, they are alive with organic food-growing beds, enthusiastic community members, a community composter, a demonstration xeriscape garden, and many more developments to come. They have, and will continue to, host gardening demonstrations and workshops, art-making events, harvest celebrations, and much more.

Although Williams Lake has been home to a handful of backyard community gardens and our two established gardens over the last eight years, there are still many misconceptions out there about what a Community Garden entails. So, to clarify, here are a few key points:

The Williams Lake Food Policy Council works hard year-round to fundraise to continue supporting the growth and maintenance of all our Community Garden sites, and to ensure we can continue to allocate beds free of charge.

  • Garden beds are currently free, although donations are always appreciated.
  • Beds are given away on a first-come first serve basis to any interested community member or organization (with preference given to returning gardeners).
  • The gardens are NOT a U-Pick. If you would like to enjoy fresh, seasonal produce, please contact the WLFPC to sign up for your own garden spot.
  • The produce you grow is yours to keep or donate—whatever you choose to do with it.

There are always plenty of opportunities to become involved: weeding, garden work bees, attending our quarterly meetings (give your input into future plans), and much more. Please contact us if you would like to be kept up to date on volunteer opportunities, or if you would like a space in one of our Community Gardens.

Michelle Daymond is a Food Action Co-ordinator with the Williams Lake Food Policy Council, a sub-committee of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Child Development Centre. The Food Policy Council is concerned with food security for Williams Lake and the Cariboo Region. For more info contact foodpolicycouncil@hotmail.com, www.facebook.com/WLFPC, or (250) 302-5010.

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