The food at last week’s Local Iron Chef event was donated by the Home Grow-In Grocer, one of the locations featured in the Home Grown exhibit. Kaylin Pearce and I visited the shop during our summer work terms to speak to the owner, Deb Reynolds, about her business and local food.
In our research leading up to our visit we heard nothing but wonderful things about this place, so we were excited to pay it a visit. We wanted to profile the store because for most city-dwellers, we relate to food as consumers. The easiest way to make a difference is to put your money where your heart is and choose ethical products over their alternatives.
The grocery store is unique because it is run with a strong social and environmental conscience. It stocks foods grown and produced in BC, a variety of vegetables, fruit, meat, grains, baked goods, dairy products, preserves and honey. Reynolds explained that she was very picky about the quality and provenance of the goods she sells, recalling times when she had pulled products off her shelves because key ingredients had not been produced locally.
Situated on the corner of two quiet residential streets, the store has become a gathering place for people in the neighbourhood. A few people sat in the shade on lawn chairs that had been placed underneath the trees outside, enjoying the atmosphere.
On the afternoon we visited the store was a hub of activity with deliveries, volunteers and staff setting up for the Home Grow-In’s Buyers Club Co-op. The program aims to make food from local farms more available to people through a harvest box program. Once per week produce is delivered from Metro Vancouver farms to the store where it is boxed and then delivered to subscribers. The program has been so successful that Reynolds is now launching a similar program to distribute locally produced meat.
In addition to this, Reynolds takes an active role in helping the community. She has an agreement with fruit tree growers in the interior to donate culled fruit - edible but too blemished to sell in stores - so she can distribute it to the Surrey Food Bank. To date she has donated significant time and several thousand pounds of produce that would otherwise have rotted. She says that this, as well as her business are part of her effort to give back to communities that helped her when she was in need.
Image credit: Brian Harris