History of Okanogan County Community Action Council (OCCAC)

27 Dec 2023, by Admin in History

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History of Okanogan County Community Action Council (OCCAC)

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The Okanogan County Community Action Council (OCCAC) is a community building organization which has served county residents since 1965. The agency’s gleaning project called “Food For All” started in a small-space demonstration garden and has blossomed into a three-tiered program based on nutrition education, gardening and gleaning. Okanogan County is a diverse and rural area of north-central Washington State flanked by the Cascade Range to the west, the Canadian border to the north, the Columbia River to the south and the Colville Indian Reservation to the east.  With 40,000 residents within an area the size of the state of Delaware, this county has a range of hunger needs. OCCAC is the county’s emergency food distribution center, serving 8 food bank locations where 46 percent of county residents receive assistance. With the region’s generational poverty, the unemployment rate currently hovers around 20 percent and continual declines in rural industries such as mining, timber and agriculture, the OCCAC food programs help this community in ways other agencies can’t.   

In 2009 the demonstration garden paved the way for the partnership between Harvest Against Hunger’s (formerly Rotary First Harvest) Harvest VISTA project that places an AmeriCorps member. After the first-year Harvest VISTA cycle completed in August 2010, OCCAC continued this collaboration with and the second-year Harvest VISTA arrived in November 2010 to administer the continuing food program P.L.A.N.T. (People Learning Agriculture and Nutrition Together). The P.L.A.N.T. grant, which started in July 2010, aims to increase the daily fruit and vegetable intakes of low-income children in Okanogan County by gleaning 20,000 pounds of produce and increasing the amount of agricultural donors to the gleaning program. The three tiers of this grant and the gleaning program are: home gardens for low-income families on WIC (Women, Infants & Children); the on-site demonstration garden; and furthering the gleaning events at local farms and home gardens or orchards.

The 2012 Harvest VISTA worked within a grant received from Wal-Mart, called G.G.G.T. (Gleaning, Gardening, and Growing Together), in order to meet the following goals:

Install 10 Gardens for 10 Families with children under 10.

A garden outreach program that is meant to introduce young families to an accessible gardening technique, in order to produce food at home. The objective in the transition from low income families that qualify for WIC [2011 grant], and low income families with children under 10 [2012 grant] was an extension of qualification to a wider spectrum of families. WIC qualification requires children be under 5.

Host 9 cooking, nutrition or food preservation courses throughout 2012.

The objective of expanding nutrition courses to include cooking and food preservation is to extend the uses of the food that is available to food bank clients, and make that food last longer.

Glean 20,000 lbs of produce, to bring into the Okanogan County food bank system.

Gleaning objective is to increase the daily servings of fruits and vegetables for food bank clients by redirecting unsellable produce to food bank clients. Okanogan is surrounded by orchards and farms. Imagine a bumper crop of cherries in the middle of cherry season, with nowhere for cherries to be stored or sold; the gleaning program exists because of conditions of excess inherent to our current economic system.

In 2012, OCCAC has met and exceeded the grant goals for gleaning and gardening, and has made progress on the cooking education goal, in the following ways:


  • Installed 10 outreach gardens for 10 families with children under 10.
  • Established a perennial pollinator ‘Wild Zone’ for the East Omak Elementary School Garden.
  • Assisted in garden education through the East Omak Elementary After-School Program on a bi-weekly basis for two semesters.
  • Held two square foot garden workshops.


  • Held 7 cooking, nutrition, food preservation classes in 2012.
  • Made partnerships with organizations in four different cities within the county in order to bring the cooking class to interested audiences.
  • Reviewing potential sources of funding to support pilot program of cooking and gardening through Pateros High School.


  • Gleaned 98,600 pounds in 2012.
  • Relied on donations from Commercial and Home Orchardists, Packing Warehouses, CSA Farmers and Home Gardeners.
  • A large portion of the gleaning donations were dependent on having a cube van, grant money to provide for an employee and gasoline, donated space in a cold storage warehouse, and the ability to retrieve that produce as needed from that warehouse.