Good Food box program now fully Island run

LITTLE CURRENT—Volunteers heave, haul and lug large grocery-filled bins into the hall at the Little Current United Church, where other volunteers sort, collate and pack 111 blue storage bins with a selection of healthy food alternatives as part of the Manitoulin Good Food Box program.

“We started the Good Food Box program under the Sudbury program,” explained coordinator Margot Bickell. “This is the second week we have been transitioning to running the program entirely locally.”

The program began under the auspices of the Noojmowin Teg Health Centre dietary program, explained coordinator Heather Thoma, but the groups involved have expanded to include a broad cross section of the Island. Among the keys to the success of the program are the local retail grocery stores. “Both G.G.’s Foodland and Orr’s Valu-Mart have been super cooperative,” said Ms. Thoma. Thanks to their efforts, the Good Food Boxes often contain a little bonus on top of the bulk purchase savings.

“Andrew (Orr) called his suppliers this past week and asked them if they could do anything for the program,” said Ms. Bickell. “They wound up donating a large amount of produce, so we were actually able to include a little bit more in each box.”

The Plant a Row Grow a Row program being organized by Wendy Gauthier of Little Current will also add a welcome boost to the bounty in the bins.

[pullquote]“We started the Good Food Box program under the Sudbury program,” explained coordinator Margot Bickell. “This is the second week we have been transitioning to running the program entirely locally.”[/pullquote]

The Good Food Boxes aim to give people who normally have difficulty securing healthy food alternatives that include healthy food options. Included in the boxes this past Tuesday were: four pounds of MacIntosh apples, a four pound bag of navel oranges, one head of lettuce, one field cucumber, three pounds of onions, three pounds of carrots and a 10 pound bag of potatoes. Also included in the Good Food Box bins are healthy recipe suggestions like ‘Apple Cinnamon Salad’ and ‘Scalloped Carrots and Potatoes.’

On each third Tuesday of the month, community volunteers gather at the Little Current United Church hall to pack the Good Food Boxes.

Once the bins are packed, those who have placed a Good Food Box order can pick them up at the distribution site.

The program is not a food bank-style operation, although the Good Food Box program often donates a couple of boxes to the Help Centre. People pay for the food, but through bulk buying, their food dollar is stretched a little further to make healthy food choices a more attainable goal. A large box sells for $17 and a small box sells for $8. “A small box is basically half of what is in the large box,” explained Ms. Bickell. “We split up the bags of apples and oranges and one box might get the lettuce while the other one would get a cabbage.”

“There are a wide range of community groups taking part, both First Nation and non-First Nation communities have come together to make this program a success,” said Ms. Thoma.

“We are mostly delivering to First Nation communities right now,” said Ms. Bickell. “We need someone to handle the financial end of things. We have Noojmowin Teg looking after the financial part of it for us for six months, but we need to have something more permanent in place soon.” Noojmowin Teg should not be contacted for the Good Food Box orders; individuals should seek out that group in their community that is looking after the program in that community. “It varies from community to community, but the health centres know who the contact is in their community.”

Individuals do not normally contact the Good Food Box folks directly, but rather seek out someone from their own health centre to order the box for them.

“We are ramping the program up to include more communities as we figure out how to handle the program in that community,” noted Ms. Bickell. “The people to handle the financial end of it are an important part of that.”

Those interested in joining the Good Food Box program as volunteers are invited to call Ms. Bickell at 705-368-3120 and to come to the Little Current United Church on the morning of the third Tuesday of the month to help wash the bins, haul the groceries and pack the boxes.