Penticton woman wants your garbage to help feed the community

Use waste, feed people

A former Penticton council candidate is still looking for help with her vision to reduce food waste and help fill the community food gap, after hearing on the campaign trail that many were struggling to feed their families.

Katie O'Kell of Serendipity Winery is working to build a "food forest" in her own yard, with the goal of eventually giving away fresh homegrown fruits and vegetables to any locals who need it, no questions asked. She is hoping more local restaurants will join her, Honey Toast, and Serendipity in sharing their food scraps for compost.

For the past eight months, O'Kell has been building her compost vessel system, diverting over four tons of food waste from the landfill during that time.

"A friend of mine has a really great sort of urban farm in her backyard. And with my background in biology, and my experience on the vineyard, I was just so excited to see what she was doing and thought, everyone should be doing this," O'Kell said.

'I mean, our grocery stores were empty, what, four times in 2020? So food security was really top of mind for us."

O'Kell's compost vessels are made of recycled burlap bags from the local fire department, and littered chickenwire she found while participating in the JCI Penticton Channel clean-up effort.

She has a 250 square foot garden ready for the 2023 planting season, and any compostable food waste is welcome to help the vision grow.

"I've got huge plans to expand. So we've got six beds for next year. And then I also have quite a large, established raspberry patch as well that I finally learned how to prune and care for to increase their yield," O'Kell said.

"My plan is to just kind of put out a social media post and be like, 'Hey, just harvested some tomatoes, come on by.' And I'll just have a table out front. I find there's a lot of resources for people who are low income, but I remember when I was first starting out in my 20s, and I wasn't eligible for any programs, but I really, really needed help. So the idea is that anyone can take them ... No one's going to be there, looking at your income slip to see if you qualify for anything. If you're hungry, and you need food, let me help."

Growing season is months away, and in the meantime, O'Kell is continuing to build up her soil with compost, and would love any contributions.

"Give me your garbage, I will take it," she said with a laugh.

"It's great for the planet. It's great for the community. I just figured, what a great way to solve a few problems at once, at least in a small, small way."

Follow O'Kell for updates on when produce is available on social media here, and restaurants are welcome to reach out to her with any compost contributions at [email protected]

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