Food Security In A Box
The Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre’s mission is to create and advocate for safe and supportive environments so that women in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario can fully engage in their lives and communities. The Women's Centre works with women to increase their access to knowledge, skills, and resources so they can make informed and strategic choices. The Centre also advocates for systemic change to public policies and practices that impact the lives of women.
One of the ways they do this work is through the Thunder Bay Good Food Box (GFB) Program, funded in part by the United Way of Thunder Bay. The Good Food Box is a volunteer driven, non-profit, subscription food security program for families and individuals who want to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price in or near their neighbourhood each month. The core GFB program is intended for those who have difficulty affording or accessing fresh produce. Six times per year, the Centre also sells additional boxes of locally grown food/products as a fundraiser to those who are already food secure and/or wish to help support the main GFB program. Here is the story of one woman who is helping make the program work and benefiting from it at the same time:
Mary had trouble keeping food in the house for the whole month. Her Ontario Works basic allowance was not enough to feed herself and her kids for 4 weeks, let alone provide proper nutrition. It was hard to find fresh produce at the food banks. She thought if she signed up for a Life Skills course, she might find some ways to make ends meet. Her Life Skills worker introduced her to the Good Food Box program, and told her she could get a subsidy to buy a family size box for $5 for a couple of months. She decided to try it, and also signed up to volunteer at packing day. When the truck arrived, Mary could not believe how much food was loaded into the hall, some kinds she had never seen or tasted before. She was amazed how efficiently she and the other volunteers were able to divide and pack 500 boxes of vegetables! Mary took home her own box and some leftover bananas and beets that were made available to the volunteers. She used the newsletter recipe included with the boxes to make borscht for the first time, which her kids actually ate and enjoyed. The box came close to the end of the month, so she was able to tide her family over until her next cheque. Mary decided that she could afford to buy a box with the regular volunteer subsidy of $7, so she made up her mind to keep up her involvement in the program.
Mary and her kids have improved their diet with fresh produce through participation in the GFB program. She was able to significantly increase her food security for only $5 - $13 per month and has gained knowledge about new foods and recipes, increasing her family’s nutrition. Mary also feels a sense of belonging and purpose being part of a community effort that helps others.
The United Way of Thunder Bay is addressing social issues in our community and investing in 3 critical areas: Moving people from poverty to possibility; Fostering a strong community; Helping kids to be all they can be. Your donations are improving lives for local people like Mary and her kids every day. By donating to the 2014 United Way campaign you can support the Good Food Box Program and 62 other local programs in our community. To learn more about programs supported by the United Way and how you can make a difference by giving, please go to www.uwaytbay.ca or call 623-6420 today.
The Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre is located at 184 Camelot Street and can be reached at 345-7802.