Fresh4Less promotes healthy eating, wellness in Northumberland County
Bulk produce purchase program saves participants money and encourages cooking from scratch
A new initiative that encourages healthy eating among residents in Northumberland County, N.B., is off to a good start.
Fresh4Less members pay a one-time $5 registration fee and purchase a $10 or $20 order of fresh produce. People save half of what it would cost if the produce was purchased in a grocery store because it's purchased in bulk.
The program was launched Oct. 4.
"It's been awesome. Some of those smaller communities, we really didn't expect to get more than a dozen registrations, but Baie-Sainte-Anne has close to 60 and they're still coming in. Blackville had 50-plus," said Michelle Davidson-Legere, co-ordinator of the Northumberland Food Security Network.
The order, available for pick-up on the first Tuesday of each month, will contain three types of vegetables and three fruits.
"Every month, you get potatoes, onions, carrots, apples, oranges and bananas. We decided as a network that we needed some basic staples just to give people that pre-knowledge of what they are getting in their bag," said Davidson-Legere.
She said the order will be supplemented by whatever fresh local produce is seasonally available from the two wholesalers the Northumberland Food Security Network is working with in purchasing the items.
Payments for orders must be received at least 10 days before the pick-up date and those who are registered don't have to order each month.
Rev. Gerry Laskey is a board member of the Greater Blackville Resource Centre, a charity that includes a food bank. He said the centre will pay for the first order for 25 to 30 of its food bank clients, so they can see what the program has to offer.
The idea for Fresh4Less came after members of the food security network visited the Natoaganeg School on the Eel Ground First Nation and saw how well a community-led program was working there.
"That community and the school had noticed that the childhood rate of obesity was rising and they were really concerned about that, so they decided to try and bring in a program that would decrease obesity, [and] encourage kids to eat healthier," said Davidson-Legere.
To make the program work, students from the school were named youth champions and helped lead the initiative.
Davidson-Legere said the food network is hoping to expand the program to more communities.
"It's just a matter of getting a space and having dedicated volunteers," she said.
She added the food network hopes to create partnerships with schools and involve students in the program like Eel Ground First Nation did.
"The students can experience dealing with fresh produce, handling it, delivering it, bringing it into their homes. So that's one of our focuses is to get produce into the hands of the youth," she said.
Laskey said the Fresh4Less program isn't just for people on a tight budget.
"It's promoting good health and healthy eating and that type of thing. Some people may have the idea it is just for food bank clients and it isn't. It's a help to the household budget and it's a wellness initiative to encourage healthier eating and cooking more from scratch," he said.
On the program's application form, people can sponsor a community member in need or ask to be sponsored.