Nova Scotia

Cape Breton co-op helps low income people get fresh farm food

The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op and the Ecology Action Centre have partnered to give 25 people access to fresh, locally produced food at half the price normally charged.

25 people in Glace Bay and Sydney Mines can now order locally produced fresh food at half price

Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op offers a wide variety of produce for its members. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Fresh meat and vegetables aren't usually food bank fare but a food box program in Cape Breton aims to change that.

The Pan Cape Breton Food Hub Co-op has partnered with the Ecology Action Centre to offer 25 people in Glace Bay and Sydney Mines the opportunity to order fresh, locally produced food at half the price normally charged.

Cape Breton Food Hub finishes first season

The participants have been chosen by co-ordinators at the Glace Bay Food Bank and Community Cares Youth Outreach in Sydney Mines.

"They're people that would be really interested in having fresh local groceries but would not otherwise be able to afford it," said Jody Nelson, the community food co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax. 

Fresh food produced by local farmers is reaching more low-income people thanks to a new program. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

The Food Hub is a web-based marketplace for Cape Breton food producers. It provides a place where consumers can meet their local farmers online and buy fresh produce, baked goods, meats and fish.

The food bank component started as a small pilot project last fall with 10 people. Many of the current 25 participants are food bank clients.

"People have really enjoyed the program" said Nelson, "and even get excited about ordering what they want."

"In emergency food systems, often, there is no choice and not a lot of fresh food," she said. "This does provide that dignity that comes with choice."

The program also teaches people how to cook with fresh ingredients, says Jody Nelson with the Ecology Action Centre. (Kristan Nelson)

The program also includes healthy cooking classes, with ideas on how to use various ingredients.

"Last year, we did a workshop that was all about salads, but it was all different kinds of salads," said Nelson. "There was a nice slaw that we made, and a nice kale salad with roasted beets in it."

Nelson couldn't say how much the program costs in total, but said it's supported by a combination of donations and grants.

Community members who pay a membership to purchase from the Cape Breton Food Hub can make regular donations to subsidize the food box program. The provincial government's Chronic Disease Innovation Fund also contributed.

The groups hope to expand the program in the future.

"Maybe there are a lot of students or perhaps seniors," said Nelson. "There are a lot of subgroups in our society it might be a good fit for. We feel all this wonderful, fresh, local, healthy food should be available for everyone."