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Vancity’s investment in local and organic food

As a values-based financial cooperative, Vancity ensures its members’ savings are invested in ways that build our members’ wealth and develop healthy communities.

One investment area is local and organic food. Vancity invests in this sector to help develop a sustainable local food system, which in turn contributes to a healthier environment, improved individual health and a more resilient local economy.

Vancity’s enviroFund grant program has made a five year commitment to supporting the development of a sustainable local food system. The enviroFund program support areas include increasing local food production, encouraging local food infrastructure development such as food hubs and aggregation facilities, and increasing local food procurement by institutions, government and restaurants.

Overall investment in local and organic food since 2010

  • Since 2010, Vancity has invested $42.6 million in local and organic food businesses and initiatives, through $35.7 million in loans and $6.9 million in grants.
  • The $6.9 million in grant funds have gone to support local and organic food initiatives and strengthen organizations like the BC Association of Farmers Markets and the 33 local farmers markets in municipalities within Vancity’s operating area.
  • Every year, a portion of Vancity enviro™ Visa profits are distributed back to the local community through the enviroFund™ program. Since 2010, the enviroFund™ has provided $3.64 million in grants to projects supporting the development of a sustainable local food system. In 2016, Vancity will grant another $700,000.
  • In 2012, Vancity introduced a Small Growers Loan, providing up to $75,000 to help farm businesses and local small scale food processors get off the ground. To date, almost half a million dollars has been loaned to local food producers, small scale food processors and distributors through this program. As of Dec. 2015, more than $750,000 has been lent to finance this sector’s growth.

Region-wide initiatives

The following are examples of local food businesses and projects Vancity has funded through loans or grants throughout the Lower Mainland and Victoria regions.

  • Vancity sits on the BC Sustainable Food Systems working group, an informal body of agencies collectively working to identify and address barriers and contribute new approaches and practices to sustainable food systems in B.C. The group recently released Local Food Futures for BC report.
  • Vancity participated on the Metro Vancouver Regional Food System advisory committee, helping to shape the Regional Food System Strategy, and supported Regional Food System Roundtable events with a sponsorship of $10,000.
  • Vancity works with key organizations like Young Agrarians, Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable, BC Food Systems Network and the Small Scale Food Processors Association to help build organizational capacity and financial sustainability. The credit union believes that supporting mission-driven organizations like these contributes to a healthier environment, improved individual health and a more resilient local economy.
  • Vancity has supported the BC Food Systems Network work around local food security and farmland protection, with five grants totaling $69,900 since 2009. This includes a $25,000 grant in 2015 for the Good Food Solutions for BC Sustainable Local Food Economies program, which will facilitate community organizations, funders, government and businesses to work together to support the development of a sustainable local food system.
  • For more than 20 years Vancity has partnered with FarmFolk CityFolk to support this group’s work. In 2014, its farmland trust feasibility study was supported with a $15,000 grant. The primary objective of the study is to determine the most suitable governance and financial model for a B.C. farmland trust and to develop an action plan and steering committee to implement the selected model. To support FarmFolk CityFolk’s work to increase sustainable local food production, we partner with it on the local food micro-loan program, which provides capital to farmers, fishers, ranchers, harvesters and processors to expand their production. In addition, FarmFolk CityFolk has received $225,000 in grants over the last five years to support important initiatives, including Get Ready Get Local and Feast of Fields events.
  • We have partnered with Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable over the last five years, supporting the following areas: farmland access, farmer training and support, processing and storage infrastructure, regional branding and marketing. In 2015, this group received a $40,000 enviroFund grant for a local food economy development project. Last year Vancity supported CRFair’s farmland roundtable, which examined shared management and funding models for governments and partners to support local agricultural infrastructure projects in Saanich and the Capital Regional District.
  • Vancity has supported the Young Agrarians through $80,000 in grants toward the development of a business mentorship program to help young farmers develop their farm businesses, and to build and grow this important organization that encourages and supports young farmers and provides land-linking tools and workshops.
  • Kwantlen Institute for Sustainable Agriculture’s bio-regional food system project and other associated work have been supported by Vancity since 2010, with $225,000 in funding. Kwantlen’s Richmond Farm School has worked with the City of Richmond to provide under-utilized municipal land for incubator farm plots. Vancity supports this project so new farmers can develop their business skills and farming experience.
  • WSANEC School Board received an $8,000 grant from Vancity for Strengthening Roots: PEPAKEN HAUTW, Blossoming Place, which focused on building capacity and engaging teachers, students and community champions to support a participatory food system education program. The program offers students hands-on experiences with native plants, food gardens and native ecosystems as well as introducing WSANEC traditional food systems into the program, including: reef net technology, clam garden field trips, pit cooking, smoking fish and preparing healthy foods.
  • The Certified Organic Association of B.C. has received $115,000 in grants over the last five years to support the growth and development of the organic food sector.
  • In 2015, Vancity is partnering with the City of Surrey to explore the development of a virtual farm incubator project to support new farmers to develop their businesses and assist them in locating farm sites. This project received a $40,000 enviroFund grant in 2015.