Nicole Knauf

Nearly 13 per cent of households in Canada experience food insecurity – ‘insecure or inadequate access to food due to financial constraints.’ There was an increase of 600,000 households between 2007 and 2012, and my guess is this trend continued resulting in more households today. Additionally, people are starting to recognize how much food is wasted and how it is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, leading to initiatives to find ways to reduce this waste. A National Food Waste Reduction Strategy was created through the National Zero Waste Council, and provinces have implemented Good Samaritan legislation to absolve corporate donors of liability for the health and safety of food donated to food banks.

Nicole Knaufis one of these influential individuals. Creator of the Fernie Fresh Food Share, Nicole is the first to admit that she is obsessed with zero waste when it comes to food. “Growing up in our family, it was engrained in us not to waste food. We didn’t throw anything away,” she tells me. Nicole’s first job was at a bakery and they would have to throw away perfectly good boxes of food. “I offered to bring them to the food bank, and they wouldn’t allow it.” That was before BC has passed the Food Donor Encouragement Act which protects businesses from liability. “It makes it easier for people to donate,” she tells me. Nicole has also worked in the restaurant industry, where she witnessed a lot of waste as well. “It was so hard to see perfectly good food thrown out.”

A busy mom with two kids, and running a business with her husband Jon, Nicole recognized a desire to give back to the community when her kids both started attending school. “I wanted to create something of my own and discussed it with Jon.” A couple of days later, they were preparing to go on holidays and Nicole was going through everything in the fridge to avoid things going to waste. “I was squeezing lemons, and freezing the juice, and Jon said, ‘well you’re pretty passionate about this.’” Not long after, she was going through the Columbia Basin Trust magazine and read an article on the Revelstoke Food Share and thought, ‘that’s what I am going to do.’ “From there, it took off,” she says. “I applied for a CBT and Summit Fund Grant, got in touch with Revelstoke who provided a framework to work from, and partnered with the Salvation Army… it happened so fast.” On the day of our interview, it was two months since she started and already 1,961 pounds of food has been diverted from the trash to people who need and appreciate fresh food.

Twice a week, Fernie Fresh Food Share picks up food from participating businesses, drops everything off, weighs and labels everything. Regular businesses on board to date are Save On Foods, Starbucks, Freshies, Crumbs Bakery and Loaf, with other businesses calling in here and there. Anything not used goes to compost or to Bolter Farms. “Everyone is stoked because they also hate seeing stuff go to waste. Fernie as a whole is a very environmentally conscious town, so people are on board and quick to support,” she tells me. The people who are using the program are super grateful, one telling her they don’t remember the last time they purchased produce because of how expensive it is. Fernie Fresh Food Share is not just for people who qualify for the Food Bank, it’s open to anyone who needs the help. “No questions asked. Groceries are so expensive, maybe a family can get food here and instead put that money towards an activity for their kid. Lesson the stress a little for some families.” Nicole adds, “People are struggling, it’s real. And if you are on disability, how do you ever get better if you’re just eating packaged foods? Fresh food is healthy.”

Nicole is so happy with how well it has been received and with her partnership with the Salvation Army. “Barb was so excited, she was in tears. She had been waiting for someone to come in and change things.” Now the partnership is looking at growing it to the next level, with an official commercial kitchen so they can make food out of what has been donated, educate people on how to decrease waste and make food go further, develop recipes and more. With Nicole’s enthusiasm and self-professed obsession, the sky is the limit with Fernie Fresh Food Share and I’m sure we aren’t alone in our excitement and relief in its existence in Fernie.

For more information on how to participate, visit Fernie Fresh Food Share on Facebook. Thank you, Nicole!

1. When did you first arrive in Fernie and what brought you here? 16 years and visiting my brother for a ski season brought me here.

2. Where did you first live in town? 1442 10th in a four plex.It wasn’t the nicest place, but the rent was cheap.

3. What was your first impression? I couldn’t believe the amount of snow! And just the people were super friendly and fun.

4. What keeps you here? The town, the people, my family. Everyone and everything is here.

5. Do you have a favourite Fernie memory? It’s hard because there’s pre and post kids. With the family, the first time we did Lazy Lizard together. Pre-kids, going down Cedar on a bluebird powder day with my sister soon after I moved here. I couldn’t believe it.

6. What is your favourite time of the year in Fernie and why? I would have to say summer, because of biking and the long days and camping.

7. Where do you see Fernie in 5 to 10 years? Well, I’m sure it’s going to continue to get busier and busier, but I hope it keeps its core values and core people as it should help it remain the same.

8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals? Coffee, always coffee. In winter, I check the snow report and get the kids going. In summer time, we make a bike ride plan. But coffee, year round.

9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you. I couldn’t grow a vegetable if my life depended on it. I’ve tried and tried and tried, I suck at gardening. I’m really good at saving food, though.

10. Quote to live by: Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it is time to pause and reflect. Mark Twain