Island Food Hubs - Together for Food

Comox Valley Region

At LUSH Valley, the team recognizes that they live and work on unceded territories, specifically the traditional territory of the K’omoks peoples. The people called K’omoks today referred to themselves as Sahtloot, Sasltla, leeksun, Puntledge, Cha’chae, and Tat’poos. Many of LUSH Valley’s practices, including the seeds they plant, the ways they educate and their methods of growing food came to these lands through the ongoing process of dispossession and colonialism. LUSH Valley holds this understanding in their interactions and engagements with this land and its people.


LUSH Valley Food Action Society works hard to support the Comox Valley community in gaining food-systems skills and knowledge to increase food security, self-sufficiency and local food production across the region. LUSH Valley’s vision is a region where healthy local food is at the heart of community wellbeing.

In 2021, LUSH Valley:

  • Distributed 5,296 Good Food Boxes
  • Delivered 16,155 meals through the Hot Meal Program
  • Harvested and distributed 18,000 pounds of fruit and $6,305 worth of gleaned vegetables through the Fruit Tree and Farm Gleaning Programs
  • Expanded Urban Agriculture Programs to include 2 Community Gardens, 8 School Gardens and 3 Social Housing Gardens
  • Broadened the reach of the Healthy Student Meal Program to include 19 SD71 schools and 25 Indigenous Support workers, serving 840-960 students each week
  • Hosted four Young Cooks sessions for a total of 25 weeks and five FoodSafe Classes where 70 students achieved their FoodSafe certification
  • Worked with over 20 farms and 24 partner organizations to connect locally-produced food with people who may not have had access otherwise

LUSH Valley's goal is to provide all members of the Comox Valley with the food access and skills required to feel healthy, empowered and connected to food systems and the community. LUSH Valley’s Key Focus Areas are local food access, food systems education, fresh food distribution, policy and advocacy.

Maurita Prato

Hub Lead: LUSH Valley

As the Executive Director of LUSH Valley Food Action Society, Maurita leads her team in helping the Comox Valley community gain the skills and knowledge they need to grow, prepare and access healthy, local food.

In addition to working with LUSH Valley, Maurita coordinates the Comox Valley Food Policy Council, a Council comprised of government representatives and experts across the local food system providing a forum for advocacy and policy development that works towards the creation of a food system that is ecologically sustainable, economically viable and socially just.

Within the Hub Collective, Maurita brings extensive knowledge in working with all levels of government to develop progressive policy for communities engaged in building local, sustainable food systems. Maurita holds a Masters in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability and a diploma in Ecological Gardening.

Maurita acknowledges her privilege and benefit as a settler of Euro-Italian heritage, on the lands she lives on as an uninvited guest, on the traditional homelands of the K'omoks peoples. She recognizes this land of plenty has been cared for by the K’omoks, Sahtloot, Sasltla, leeksun, Puntledge, Cha’chae, and Tat’poos and other Indigenous peoples through time immemorial. She is actively working on her own decolonization practice and learning how to be a good ally, with the intention to grow good relationships with the land and its people. Maurita believes that good food systems and practices have the ability to heal relationships, people, the land and the sea.

Jessie Newman

Jessie is from the Gak’yaals Kiigaway (clan) of K’uuna (Skedans) and a member of the Haida Nation. She is Haida on her maternal side and Heiltsuk and Kwakwaka’wakw on her paternal side. She grew up in Hlgaagilda (Skidegate) and W̓áláqvḷa (Bella Bella), and comes from two fishing families. She was fortunate to have access to many of her ancestral foods in her youth and has always loved how they bring family and community together.

Jessie completed her Dietetics degree from UBC in 2015 and currently holds the position of Indigenous Health Dietitian with Island Health, working with North Island communities towards achieving their wellness goals. This includes supporting Nations in their food sovereignty/security initiatives, as well as diabetes prevention and management. She also supports the work of the North Island food hubs by participating in food roundtables and creating space for meaningful collaboration with local Indigenous communities. Jessie also serves on the board of LUSH Valley Food Action Society.

From an early age Jessie understood the healing power of our foods, and feels fortunate that “work” allows continual learning and guidance from community knowledge keepers.

Kimberley Toonders

Kimberley is a Registered Dietitian working with Island Health’s Public Health team. She acknowledges she is a white settler with mixed European ancestry. Her roots are in Grande Prairie, Alberta, where her great grandparents established farms. Kim lives and works on the traditional, unceded territory of the Liǧʷiɫdax̌ʷ First Nations: the Wei Wai Kum, We Wai Kai and Kwiakah First Nations. She is grateful to call these beautiful, bountiful lands her home. She has much respect for the rich history of Indigenous connection to and stewardship of these lands and acknowledge the continued role of Indigenous peoples as leaders in food sovereignty and environmental stewardship.

Kim’s office is in Campbell River and she works with child, youth and family programs and schools throughout the North Island, with the Comox Valley as the Southern boundary. Kimberley supports the work of the food hubs in the North Island as a member of the Comox Valley Food Policy Council and the Strathcona Food Security Coalition, and also regularly attends the Strathcona Food Network meetings. She is the co-chair of the Strathcona Community Health Network (SCHN), which has identified food security as a key strategic initiative. The SCHN has played an important role in hosting food security conversations, encouraging collaboration and obtaining project funding. Kimberley is also a member of the steering committees for the Sayward and Gold River Children’s Health Hubs.

Community Partners