Neechi president shocked by Manitoba Liberal plan to compete with existing store
‘It feels like we’re invisible’ says president of Neechi Foods Co-op on Main Street
The Manitoba Liberals promised on Friday they would create a not-for-profit fresh food market in downtown Winnipeg if elected April 19.
"It will provide Manitobans a place to source great locally grown produce, meat and other groceries and this market will draw other businesses and residents to our core," said a Manitoba Liberal news release, billing it as a "fresh approach to downtown revitalization."
The Liberals estimate the cost of purchasing land and building the store to be $20 million.
Louise Champagne, president of Neechi Foods Co-op, calls the Liberal's announcement "shocking."
"It feels like we're invisible … I get really, really frustrated with that kind of invisibility," Champagne said.
Neechi Commons is an indigenous-run supermarket run out of a renovated building on Main Street. It bills itself as a destination for healthy, fresh, affordable food in an area under-served by Canada's major grocery chains.
"They often talk about a food desert in the inner city and we're right here, we're an oasis," said Champagne.
- Neechi Foods fighting to fill gaps left by major grocers in inner city
- Neechi Commons: Winnipeg grocery store bucks trend in core neighbourhood
Champagne said she does not know whether Bokhari or any member of her team has shopped at Neechi Commons and alleges the party may not have fully researched the inner city's food desert issue if it omitted the food cooperative's work.
"We create employment in the community, we go a little bit beyond charity, beyond the food banks, we create employment opportunities for people to earn an income."
Neechi is actively trying to raise capital and pay down a heavy debt load, said Champagne.
The $20 million the Manitoba Liberals said they would use to invest in a downtown grocery store would "absolutely" solve the cooperative's financial problems, Champagne said.
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