Moncton YMCA closes food bank, opens community food centre

YMCA of Greater Moncton CEO Zane Korytko calls the opportunity to open the first community food centre in New Brunswick "absolutely amazing."

New community food centre aims to bring people together to grow, cook and share good food

YMCA of Greater Moncton CEO Zane Korytko calls the opportunity to open the first community food centre in New Brunswick "absolutely amazing."

He says the Y has been working on the concept for more than five years and compares the goal of the program to the old proverb, 'give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.'

"This is what a community food centre is," Korytko said. "It's an opportunity to teach people everything from how to grow, to cook properly and nutritionally their food, to be able to share it, to be able to advocate on top of it, to be able to make sure that we can lobby both regionally, provincially and nationally so that people can get good quality food to eat."

Korytko says the program will be aimed at the most vulnerable people but the food centre will be open to everyone.

Food bank closing

The YMCA of Greater Moncton is planning to close its food bank at the end of March.

Korytko says when the organization took over the High Street food bank five years ago it was intended as a temporary measure.

"The community food centre will allow us to increase the offerings to the community based around food and it will also ensure we're making a greater impact in our community."

Korytko says operating the food bank has led to a community garden project that allows people to grow their own food and a teaching kitchen, so this is the next logical step.

"We all know that food banks are doing vital work and they are continuing to do so here in Moncton as elsewhere but community members have also begun to realize that a charity-based response to hunger has done little to solve long-term challenges like poverty and food security."

Korytko says the next step is to hire a managing director and then complete a six-month needs analysis.

He says the community food centre will operate from a central location outside of the YMCA and will work with as many partners in Greater Moncton as possible to reflect the diversity of the city.

"I think it's going to be so exciting to be able to bring in so many various cultures that are coming into the community now and be able to explain how they look upon healthy food, how they prepare healthy food."

He expects the community food centre to open in the fall of 2014.

Community Food Centres Canada is an organization founded in 2012 with the goal of setting up food centres across the country to meet immediate food needs, help people improve their physical and mental health, and create social change through an innovative mix of food access, food skills, and education and engagement programs.

It's first centre, The Stop Community Food Centre, is located in Toronto.

Kortyko says he has visited the Toronto location and loved the vision.

Nick Saul, President and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada, says good food can transform low-income communities.

"There is so much potential to use the power of food to create a healthier, fairer and more resilient Moncton."