Carol Anne Aikman went to work Thursday morning wondering what to have for supper.
A portion of her dinner menu was answered at work.
Aikman, who works in the administrative office at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, took advantage of an on-site market featuring fresh produce and other foods grown by local farmers.
“I’ve got a dozen corn and I’m trying a spaghetti squash,” Aikman said, delighted at the opportunity to shop local in her workplace.
“They’ve brought it to us, so we don’t have to travel out to the farm to get it. They’ve brought it right to our door. I think it’s fantastic.”
Buying local is something she thinks many consumers overlook when filling out their grocery orders. It’s something she’d like to do more of herself.
Local farmer Kevin Belluz was doing a brisk business at the market, hosted in the hospital’s cafeteria. But it really wasn’t about the money, he said.
It was more an opportunity to show hospital employees and visitors the benefits local food can offer. He loved the idea.
“Being local food growers, we’re obviously here for new markets. But also philosophically our farm and our belief in our family is that people need to start thinking a little bit more about where their food is coming from these days,” Belluz said.
“With the way things are going and the way the world has changed, it’s a good idea to be a little bit more food secure and have food produced locally now. So we think it’s a great idea to do this.”
It’s also a matter of taste, he added.
He pointed to the droughts in the U.S. Midwest and southern Ontario as examples of a food supplies suddenly drying up.
“Bad weather could strike. We had a flood here in Thunder Bay in the spring and that has the potential to influence food supply.”
While consumers in Thunder Bay can find fresh produce grown year-round, if they’re willing to pay for it, the quality is often lacking.
Growers exporting food are choosing varieties that can withstand traveling thousands of kilometres from South America or Mexico to Thunder Bay and all points in between.
“It’s fresher, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “We grow varieties that are built for flavor, not so much for shipping,” Belluz said.
Kelly Jo Gillis, the manager of preventative health services at the hospital, said the on-site fresh market, which featured the True North Co-op, Gammondale Farms – who donated all proceeds to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation – and Belluz Farms, appeared to be a hit with staff.
It was all about convenience and employee health, she added.
“We’re trying to improve the health and wellness of our staff and we know that healthy eating is just one of those ways to do that,” Gillis said.
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