How Food Insecurity Affects All of Us and What’s Being Done About It

November 22, 2016

By Jennifer Adelson

 

Many people in Ottawa lack access to healthy, affordable food and are food insecure. This is a large issue affecting downtown neighbourhoods as well as all of Ottawa, including rural areas such as West Carleton.

In the 700 square kilometres that makes up West Carleton, there is one grocery store and no public transportation. This leads to a lack of access to affordable fresh produce, which makes West Carleton a food desert. The only other year-round access to food is through convenience stores that do not sell fresh produce. The average roundtrip distance to a grocery store in West Carleton is 46 km, compared to an average roundtrip of 8 km in central Ottawa. The produce that is available is extremely limited and none of it is local.

The Deep Roots Food Hub (DRFH) is a non-profit organization whose main goal is to make West Carleton food secure. The DFRH, in partnership with the Ottawa Good Food Box, Centretown Community Health Centre and EnviroCentre, with support from the Community Foundation of Ottawa, has three main initiatives: store, distribute, and educate.  

The DRFH will create a community root cellar in central West Carleton to give local farmers the ability to store produce to extend their season and expand their market.  Multiple farmers will collaborate to have one driver deliver their produce to the Ottawa Good Food Box warehouse, which will allow them to save on transportation costs. Lastly, through a series of workshops and the establishment of a community garden, West Carleton residents will learn more about the economic and health benefits of local produce. According to Judi Varga-Toth, the co-Chair of the DRFH, “the goal is to turn [the DRFH] into the hub for good food in West Carleton”.

The DRFH’s partners and other organizations in the Centretown and Somerset West neighbourhoods are also doing their part to ensure access to quality produce.

The Ottawa Good Food Box (Ottawa GFB) is a non-profit initiative supported by the Centretown Community Health Centre (CCHC) that offers a variety of fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices once a month at 35 sites across Ottawa. Every month, the Ottawa GFB features a different fruit or vegetable that is in season and as local as possible. Each box comes with a newsletter with recipes to prepare the featured produce. They offer four different boxes, including an organic box, at prices ranging from $10 to $20 so everyone can enjoy the fruits and vegetables.

Good Food Markets are an initiative of the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres through its Anti-Poverty Project and in collaboration with community partners. Good Food Markets are pop-up non-profit markets that address barriers to food at the neighbourhood level by selling high quality produce and dry goods in communities at great value. The CCHC and Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC) support the delivery of Good Food Markets in Rochester Heights and at the Nanny Goat Hill Community Garden. For more information on these markets visit www.gfmottawa.ca.  

Another good food initiative of the Anti-Poverty Project is the MarketMobile, a retrofitted grocery store on wheels. The MarketMobile travels to eight different neighbourhoods in Ottawa, twice a month each. In addition to accessing affordable and healthy food, the MarketMobile also offers a space for community members to connect with each other, with community health centre staff, and to learn about community resources. The MarketMobile visits Laroche Park in Mechanicsville every second Wednesday. For more information, visit www.marketmobileottawa.ca.

Lastly, community health centres offer individual appointments and group programs with community dieticians who can help with healthy and low-cost menu planning, reading nutrition labels, and cooking workshops to improve food preparation skills. For more information on these services, visit www.centretownchc.org and www.swchc.on.ca.

There are so many great food projects happening in the city. If you want to get involved with any of these great organizations, they would love the help. They are always looking for volunteers with a passion for food security!

This column is a collaboration between the Centretown Community Health Centre and Somerset West Community Health Centre. We are local non-profit, community-government organizations that provide health and social services to the residents of Centretown and the Somerset Ward. We believe every one matters and every one contributes to a healthy community.