Fresh idea helps feed community

A new partnership between Quality Greens on Anderson Way in Vernon and the Upper Room Mission aims to keep food on the table for many people in need in the Greater Vernon community.

Vernon, B.C. — Armed with a few reusable grocery bags, Gay hops onto her scooter and makes her daily journey to the Upper Room Mission.

The 58-year-old has been accessing the services at the mission for about a year and a half.

She eats breakfast, plays cards, chats with friends and waits for the staff at the mission to fill up the bread shelf and lay out the day’s fresh fruits and vegetables.

“It is nice that they have this,” Gay says with a smile while holding up a head of lettuce she grabbed from a box of produce.

Gay is one of several dozen community members who rely on the mission for daily bread, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Twice daily, when available, staff place fresh produce and bread out for anyone in the community who may require such items.

Options like these are made possible through the generous donations of a range of community partners including grocery stores.

Twice daily, when available, staff place fresh produce and bread out for anyone in the community who may require such items.

Recently, the seeds of a new partnership took root, and what is growing promises to keep food on the table for a long time to come.

Now, *Quality Greens’ Vernon customers can donate their purchase points to the Upper Room Mission, which can then be used by the URM to purchase groceries.

“The staff and customers are super excited about this program,” explains Quality Greens’ Store Manager Jeremy Silzer. “We have always tried to maintain local relationships with farmers and businesses, so it makes perfect sense that we would build off that and support local charities.”

Two percent of any purchase goes towards building a customer’s points program. Customers can redeem those points for groceries, or they can now donate them to the Upper Room Mission.

“We set out with the goal of $1,000 in points by Christmas,” says Silzer. “We are three weeks into the campaign and our customers have already donated more than half of that amount.”

Silzer says when they hit the $1,000 point mark, they will just readjust the goal.

“We set out with the goal of $1,000 in points by Christmas,” says Silzer. “We are three weeks into the campaign and our customers have already donated more than half of that amount.”

“We have amazingly generous customers. They have told us that this campaign is important to them, so we plan to keep it going for as long as our customers support it.”

The donated points will be used by the Upper Room Mission to purchase groceries that weren’t otherwise donated through the generosity of its community partners.

“These partnerships are invaluable,” explains Upper Room Mission General Manager Cera Brown. “Food scarcity is a real concern for many people in Vernon. Having to choose between food and life’s other necessities, like rent, school or even medications, can create a lot of stress for families and individuals. The fresh produce and bread made available daily at the mission can help ease that stress. We can’t do that without the support of businesses like Quality Greens.”

Meanwhile at the mission, after her lunch, Gay hops on her scooter and heads home, this time her collection of reusable grocery bags are full of fresh produce and bread.

Once at home, Gay will put her collection of bread, fruit and veggies out on a table in the foyer of her apartment for her neighbours to go through.

Gay lives in a 55+ apartment building in Downtown Vernon. Many of her neighbours are shut-ins or low-income seniors, living on a limited pension.

“I bring them what I can because I know if I don’t, maybe they won’t have food,” Gay says.

It’s partnerships with local organizations, like Quality Greens, that help keep food on the table for people like Gay and her neighbours.

*The Kelowna and Penticton Quality Greens locations will also be launching similar programs and if any community groups wanted join they can email [email protected]

— by Josh Winquist