When it comes to the growing problem of obtaining nutritious affordable food in Winnipeg’s downtown and north end, it’s not just about the cost, but the variety and availability as well.
The National Food Basket has proven Winnipeg FoodShare Co-op’s programs may be the answer, but the local non-profit is in need of more volunteers and financial assistance.
It costs between $797.01 and $821.63 to feed a family of four, and if a family receives Employment Insurance benefits, they cannot cover this cost, states the EIA Advocacy Network’s report: Cost of Food in Winnipeg.
In a time of rising food costs, the Winnipeg FoodShare Co-op is building and creating community through friendly and committed volunteers who are sensitive to citizens’ needs. Now, the Co-op is asking for the public’s support.
Community building and food security are two ideals that Stephanie Unger holds as priorities in her daily life. As a volunteer for the Good Food Box, a delivery program for produce to local residents, she finds there is a sense of great need in her community.
She welcomes neighbourhood children to her table and often they ask, “What is that?” as they peer quizzically at food items they’ve never even heard of.
Unger explains even though produce may be affordable at No Frills, people are not always buying it.
“If you haven’t been taught how to eat healthy, it doesn’t matter if the cost is cheaper or not,” says Unger. “There is an education piece [that is needed]. People living in crisis as well as having a low income, do not plan ahead as healthy food takes time to prepare.”
Vanessa Meads, Executive Director of the Winnipeg FoodShare Co-op, says people become participants by registering with the WFC and then are assigned to a nearby depot, where every other week they pick up a package of fresh fruits and vegetables at a reasonable price.
On the website, neighbourhood residents can order a large package for $20, a medium one for $15, and a small for $8.
Meads explains quality is important, and the WFC purchases produce from a wholesale store, which then WFC inspects and if anything doesn’t look fresh, it is put aside.
Winnipeg FoodShare Co-op provides various programs such as, an educational piece with nutrition and cooking classes. It’s all part of what they do.
WFC incorporated as a social service co-operative in Oct. 2011 and are registered with the province of Manitoba as such.
They have received funding for operations from the Government of Manitoba through the Neighbourhoods Alive! program.
For Josh Brandon, Community Animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, food security is a big concern for inner city neighbourhoods.
“Many residents in downtown areas and the north end rely on convenience stores or other non-traditional grocery stores, where there is less variety and higher cost for many basic foods,” says Brandon.
He explains this is a huge problem for people in the downtown or north end, as many are already on a low income and EIA does not cover half of the costs of a basic diet.
In his remarks, Brandon makes reference to an article by Shawn Laney entitled, Focus on Food to Take Pressure off Healthcare System.
An example, he says, is a prediction by the Canadian Diabetes Association that costs to government to treat diabetes in Canada will soon exceed $3 billion; adding costs to employers and the individual, the estimated amount increases to $13.8 billion.
Laney’s article also refers to a project back in 1972, when the federal and provincial governments funded research in Dauphin MB, giving citizens a basic income, so they could have adequate nutritious food, which saved eight per cent on health care costs.
“What we need is concerted government action. We need policies that provide food security for all Manitobans,” Brandon says.
Why the WFC is is fundraising and how can you help?
“We are focusing on the Good Food Box expenses and some of the other expenses across programs, including rent and program staff,” explains Meads. “[But especially] the delivery expenses for the Good Food Box program.”
Meads adds, “The WFC is fundraising to continue with the Good Food Box delivery, and want to get the word out. We want to make sure we [stay] in the community where we need to be.
“We want to grow it and reach people [so they can] access good healthy food from a location where they can walk to or get to easily.”
The WFC’s Good Food Box program came out of an idea from the West Broadway Community Organization.
Rising Food Costs and Scarcity
A CBC article published Feb. 2 of this year, Weak Canadian dollar causes food prices to rise in Winnipeg, quotes Munther Zeid, who owns Food Fare grocery stores in Winnipeg.
He says prices are up, consumers are still buying, but they are being more selective.
McNeill interviews the same store owner, Munther Zeid, who says, “The cost of premium tomatoes, for example, is about $4.99 per pound, compared to $1.50 to $2 per pound this time last year. Broccoli is $3.50 a pound versus $1.49 to $2.49, and grapes are $4.50 to $5 per container, compared to $3.50. The list goes on and on,” says Zeid.
The Food Institute of the University of Guelph’s Food Price Report 2015 says vegetable prices took an upward turn of 3.1%. Much of this was due to droughts in California last year, a main source of Canadian produce during the winter season (Mansfield, 2014).
Food Pricing in Manitoba Project blogs reports, “In 2012, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority did a study and found a nutritious food basket for a family of four in Winnipeg cost $186.67 and ranged from St James-Assiniboia ($179.75) to River East ($198.65). The cost in Point Douglas, where our North End site is located, came in at $188.35, slightly above average.”
There are also few grocery stores in the North End and the price of getting to a grocery store is often higher. When you take a bus or a taxi to get to a grocery store and back, you are paying for more than just your groceries.
To get involved or to support the Winnipeg FoodShare Co-op, please click here.