Winnipeg doesn’t seem like home to many deserts – but it is. Food deserts, that is.
“Food security to me is the equal right to food for all,” explains Jasmine Tara, the food security and greening facilitator at the North End Community Renewal Corporation. “Fresh produce in the North End is not readily available – the grocery stores are on the outskirts of the core area and not easy to get to.”
Tara says that when it comes down to it, fresh fruits and vegetables provide more nutrient density for less money but are hard to come by at the many convenience stores in the neighbourhood.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables improve the quality of your diet and of your life by reducing the risk of certain diseases. They also add color, flavour, and variety to your diet,” says Natalie Rempel, fourth year dietary sciences student.
The North End Food Security Network implemented a program – the Good Food Box. The program was also run in the West Broadway Neighbourhood and saw great success there, which was repeated in the North End.
The program sees fresh fruits and vegetables purchased in bulk to drive down their costs and delivered bi-weekly to a community depot, where they are picked up by participants. The boxes come in three sizes: a small box for $8, a medium box for $15, and a large box for $20. There is no delivery charge and no profit generated – this is purely a service provided to the community.
“The program was just covering a need in the community for fresh fruits and vegetables and became more and more popular,” says Tara.
The program has now spread throughout the city and is managed by Winnipeg FoodShare Co-op, a partnership between several community renewal organizations and Food Matters Manitoba. The co-op saw 525 boxes ordered and delivered this past week.
The Good Food Box isn’t just for the inner city.
“The small, eight-dollar box is perfect for singles, seniors, and university students,” Tara says. “This is not just for people who are financially struggling, this is absolutely for everyone in Winnipeg. It’s simply about fresh, affordable, produce available to you in an easy way.”
It doesn’t take much commitment to become a depot and anyone can be one – even from their own home. Just collect orders from community members—a minimum of five orders is required—place your order with the co-op, and the boxes will be delivered to your depot bi-weekly for community members to pick up.
“You have access to vegetables and recipes that automatically include them, which is important” says Rempel.
University students on their own, cooking for themselves might not know what to do with vegetables, thus preventing them from purchasing vegetables.
“I would love to see a Good Food Box Depot at every university and community centre in the city,” adds Tara.
Community enrichment, relationship building, and multi-faceted wellness are all positive products of food security.
“I don’t want people to depend on processed, boxed food in the store. I want to teach people how to cook with fresh food and pass those skills on. Not only does it lead to a longer, healthier life and provide disease prevention – the reality is [that] food brings people together,” asserts Tara.