Published: October 11, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
A local program to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables is getting an extension after receiving a financial boost from local and regional sources.
The Red Lake Food Box was launched this past spring in order to improve access to produce for lower income families. At the time of launch the program was a six month pilot.
Organizers confirmed last week the program has been extended for another year, with some minor changes.
“When we looked through our few evaluations [the program] was deemed successful. We have opened it up to the public and we have been meeting our targets,” said Northwestern Health Unit’s Jaclyn Shewchuk on Oct. 6.
“Those who consider themselves food insecure are welcome to continue paying the $20 but we have made it a voluntary option to pay $25 if you don’t consider yourself food insecure and the extra $5 will go to sustaining the food box.”
Shewchuk says the additional funds will be combined with funding received from Tbaytel, Goldcorp Red Lake Gold Mines, the Municipality of Red Lake and a Canada 150 grant in order to continue the program well into 2018.
New Starts for Women Executive Director Jennifer Chamberlin said last week the program was well received in the community and notes opening up the program to the general population will help ensure availability when individuals and families are in need.
“Individuals who are low income don’t have the money every single month to participate in the program so opening it up to the public keeps it sustainable and reliable so for those months they can afford it.”
She adds the goal is to continue to provide around 50 boxes for purchase each month with a balance of price points.
“We want enough people buying it to sustain the program. We need those people who are coming month after month that we can count on so that one month we aren’t doing all this work for 10 boxes and in that number of people buying boxes if there can be a complement of people paying the $25 and those that are in need using the $20 boxes.”
Community partners in the initiative have included the Red Lake Family Health Team, Red Lake Area Emergency Shelter, Red Lake Indian Friendship Centre, New Starts for Women, NWHU along with Tikinagan and the Harmony Centre. Each of the partners has been encouraged to promote the program with their clients.
Georgie Shuurman says posters have been put up in the community, including at the medical clinic and notes the boxes, which include a new fruit or vegetable each month with recipes, is increasing awareness of nutritious options.
“It really broadens people’s range of what they eat, carrots, peas and corn – let’s do something new.”