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What began as a strategy to reduce human-bear conflict has evolved into a program that feeds hundreds of families annually through the Pemberton Food Bank.

In 2016, Stewardship Pemberton Society’s Feasting for Change program launched the Fruit Tree Project to help residents reduce excess fruit from their trees and bushes before they attract bears. The innovative project matches property owners with volunteers who harvest the fruit, and the yield is distributed in three equal parts to the property owners, volunteer pickers, and the Pemberton Food Bank.

Last year, the program donated more than 3,000 pounds of fresh fruit to the Pemberton Food Bank and other local  organizations. From apples and pears to grapes and blueberries, the produce has been crucial in helping to meet the growing demand for food bank services.  

“The price of food is increasing and food security is decreasing,” explains Dawn Johnson, Stewardship Pemberton Society Board Member. “So, we wanted to find ways to use the food that is available in our community.”

With that in mind, the Feasting for Change team also runs the Grow it Forward Garden to produce a sustainable, healthy source of local foods to support the Food Bank. The Grow it Forward Garden plot – located in the Pemberton Creek Community Garden – has been tremendously successful in engaging the community to grow a wide range of produce that helps to feed neighbours throughout the region.

Students at Signal Hill Elementary create the “vegi-starts” by potting seeds placed on their classroom window sills, Dawn explains. Through field trips, they plant the starts, tend to the garden and learn about the act of giving back, she says.

Last year, Grow it Forward Garden contributed nearly 600 pounds of produce to the Food Bank, including fresh vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants.

“Being able to mobilize the community and donate such a large amount of food has been terrific and fulfilling,” says Sierra Aston, Executive Director of Stewardship Pemberton Society. “The project has had a positive impact and continues to give back to the community year after year,” she adds. 

Pemberton Food Bank staff agree, wholeheartedly. Contributions to the Food Bank have been vital, particularly during the pandemic. In 2020, alone, the number people fed by the Pemberton Food Bank grew by 400% to more than 9,000. 

Fruits and vegetables donated also support other Sea to Sky Community Services programs, including Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program, Life Skills, and the Seniors Lunch program.

Learn more about the Pemberton Food Bank and how you can support the thousands of community residents who use the service.