Battle against food insecurity expands in Halifax, Dartmouth

Remember Square Roots and their initiative to offer affordable food in Halifax? The service is expanding to four new locations in the municipality.

Square Roots began in 2016 with aims to cut down on food waste and insecurity in the municipality

Square Roots, a Halifax-area initiative battling food insecurity and waste, is opening pickup locations in Cherry Brook, Eastern Passage, Dartmouth and Fairview (CBC)

If there's one thing an organization tackling food insecurity and cutting down on food waste hopes to achieve it's healthy growth. 

Square Roots, a fresh produce delivery service that began with pilot projects at Halifax's Uniacke Square and Saint Mary's University last year, is expanding to four new pickup locations in the municipality.

Four-kilogram bundles of fresh produce will now be available to customers in Eastern Passage, Dartmouth, Cherry Brook and Fairview.

The food bags are filled with imperfect vegetables and fruit that would otherwise be thrown out by producers in the Annapolis Valley. Square Roots collects that food and prices the bundles at $5 or $10, depending on what the customer can afford. 

Reaching 'all walks of life'

Jan Merchant, a new franchise manager with Square Roots, debuted the Fairview location off Lacewood Drive near the Centennial Arena on Saturday. She's lived in the neighbourhood for the last two years. 

"It's an area that contains people from all walks of life. People who are perhaps new to the country, students, youth, young families. And those are the people we want to reach the most," she said. 

Jan Merchant sets up a sign directing traffic in the Fairview area to her new pickup location near Centennial Arena. (CBC)

Merchant said their exact Fairview location might change, as might the once-a-month frequency of operation.

"It's going to take a lot of interest, it's going to take a lot of commitment from customers in order for us to go twice a month," she said. 

Healthy growth

Down the street from Merchant's table, the city's Mobile Food Market made a stop near Titus Smith Memorial Park. That shows access to affordable food is still a problem in the area, Merchant said, and that Square Roots's customer base isn't shrinking.

Kaitlyn Amell, a project manager for the organization, said people of all demographics — from churchgoers, to immigrants to students — continue to discover Square Roots.

Kaitlyn Amell was helping Merchant with the Fairview location on Saturday. (CBC)

"Last month I went to Uniacke Square and we were just walking around with bundles and three people stopped us and asked us if they were for sale," she said.

"They weren't even customers at the time, but they were so struck by this affordable option that they just wanted to buy it right then and there." 

Token program expanding

Amell works with the organization's token program, which aims to cut back on food waste at Halifax restaurants. People can trade in a token bought for $5 at participating restaurants. Staff then prepare a meal using unsold food. 

Basha, located on Inglis Street, is one of those restaurants. 

"They went from seven per cent food waste expense to four per cent [since May]," said Amell. 

Square Roots started the token program in late April. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

She said Square Roots hopes to soon count King of Donair among the participating restaurants. They are also working on developing business relationships outside Nova Scotia.

"It means that there's a lot of food insecurity, really," she said

About the Author

David Irish

Reporter

David Irish is a reporter and digital editor for CBC Nova Scotia. He has a keen interest in issues affecting towns and rural communities in the province. Contact him with story ideas at dave.irish@cbc.ca.