Let’s eat: one community’s vision for fresh, cheap, and accessible food in Halifax
NORMAN GREENBERG really wants to be clear: this story isn’t about him.
I’m sitting in the rear of an antique boutique on Halifax’s swiftly gentrifying Gottingen Road with the volunteer chair of the Community Carrot Co-Op board of directors. He’s telling me about how the community’s vision for an accessible, cheap, community-owned grocery store came a few steps closer to being realized.
“Every project starts with an idea,” says Greenberg, 66. “But this is really about the community coming together to make something happen.”
Greenberg, a retired psychologist, had been working in the North End with people with mental illness for years bringing them back into their community through work placements and training programs.
One of those programs was a miniature grocery kiosk, run out of a community housing apartment. When he found the store’s tremendous success, Greenberg noticed that the kiosk was meeting an unseen want in the low-salary neighbourhood. His clientele had been struggling to find affordable produce nearby.
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Let’s eat one community’s vision for fresh, cheap, and accessible food in Halifax
Residents of the area live just under 1.5 kilometres away from a major supermarket–a 20-minute walk, or a nine-minute bus ride, although specialty food stores dot the neighbourhood. Still, lugging food back from the big stores isn’t easy if you’re older or possess a disability–especially if you can’t afford a car.
Greenberg brought the idea to community wellness worker Jane Maloney. Maloney, users of the area’s black community, and local food security advocates loved the idea and called a community meeting.
“About 60 people showed up,” Greenberg remembers. The atmosphere was buzzing with support. That was about two years ago. “From that meeting came a big pile of men and women who made a decision they’d prefer to remain at the desk and develop this. There were persons coming and going from that table ever since.”
So the idea had support. But it needed money. Led by Carrot spokesperson Gwen McCauley, the board won a $115,000 Aviva Community Fund Grant through votes and on-line support. By early April, they had crowdsourced an extra $3,410 through FundRazr toward fulfilling their mandate: teaching people about how to prepare healthy, local nosh. Plans are also in the works to have a community kitchen, where people can teach each other and swap cooking techniques.
But the board still has work to do–including securing a space and turning the shop into a fact. “We are way closer to checking a supermarket on Gottingen Road than we were half a year before,” says Greenberg, “but we remain a long way away.”
Greenberg hopes that with the co-op structure, buyers will establish a romance with the retail outlet. Members should be able to give feedback and also have a say about what’s doing work for both buyers and employees. However the co-operative dynamics of the business enterprise as well allows the plank to shoot for a loftier target. Those moving into poverty will have adverse wellbeing outcomes; Greenberg hopes that by educating persons on healthy, regional eating the community can break that cycle. “You’re not only walking into a store. You’re part of something bigger.”
How three Canadian neighbourhoods fought their food deserts
WINNIPEG In the fall of 2012, the North End Community Food Security Network launched Winnipeg FoodShare. The program provides boxes of new food to low-income food deserts at a discounted price, and offers a free grocery store shuttle service.
SASKATOON. The Good Food Junction Co-op opened September 2012 in Saskatoon’s westside primary. The grocery store offers fresh, affordable food to the Riversdale, King George and Pleasant Hill neighbourhoods, all areas which have been food deserts for over a decade. The Good Food Junction is section of the Station 20 West initiative designed to reduce health insurance and monetary problems in the region.
VANCOUVER This year 2010, the Trout Lake Cedar Cottage Foodstuff Reliability Network initiated “pocket markets” in a few of Vancouver’s low-money neighbourhoods with poor foodstuff access. These portable farmers’ markets create shop monthly in four unique Vancouver neighbourhoods. The market segments offer produce at low cost for low-income people.
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