Good food, great idea

Good Food Box co-op helps remedy the drought of downtown grocery options

Since the closure of Extra Foods and Zellers last year, the downtown core has had a dearth of affordable supermarkets. The lack of inexpensive options can result in it being a challenge for students to afford fresh produce without breaking the bank. Programs like the Good Food Box (GFB) help fill that gap.    

The Good Food Box is a program run by the Winnipeg Food Share Co-op (WFC), where Winnipeggers can order boxes of pre-assembled fresh produce for affordable prices, anywhere between $8 (for a small box) and $20 (for a large box). These nifty and nutritious packages are distributed at accessible neighbourhood depots. Each box contains an array of produce and a newsletter with recipes and local events; the pamphlet often identifies the farmers that provided WFC with produce that week.

The WFC partners with several neighbourhoods downtown and in the North End to create depots where Good Food Boxes are both ordered and distributed. This past February, the University of Winnipeg joined other community centres - including the Spence Neighbourhood Association and the West Broadway Neighbourhood Association - to become a Good Food Box Depot. Following a successful trial run of the program during the period of February to May, the distribution of the boxes will continue again in mid-September, every second week in the Hive.

Michael Barkman, the community liaison director at the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, notes that the program “strikes a balance between affordability and locality.” He says that most of the students who use the Good Food Box program at the U of W are students living downtown, but some of the commuting students, staff and even parents have ordered a box. Although some of the produce each week will be locally sourced and sometimes organic, the requirement for affordability means that imported produce must also be included.

Often people find such unfamiliar vegetables as bok choy and kohlrabi in the GFB. Barkman says people end up discussing these products, how they should prepare them and swapping recipes - conversation that makes the difference between a corporate supermarket and the GFB depot, where community is promoted and encouraged.

Barkman says the U of W depot started small in order to work out some kinks, but he would like to see the growth of programming to mirror other depots, including field trips to local farms. But as it is, the Good Food Box is a cheap and easy alternative for healthy living.

“When people first see the box there is a huge amount of excitement, different from grocery shopping,” Barkman says. “It’s like a little present to yourself.”

You can order your Good Food Box at theuwsa.ca/good-food-box/ and pay at The Info Booth. Pickup is every second Wednesday at The Hive from 3-5 pm.

Published in Volume 69, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 3, 2014)

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