“People coming to the market know that we are providing at wholesale prices, and that they can come back and continue to purchase food,” says Kim McGibbon, the food and kitchen director at Roots to Harvest. “The goal of the program is about increasing accessibility of fresh fruits and vegetables and increasing consumption, and long term, increasing health.”
Roots to Harvest purchases fresh fruits and vegetables wholesale, including from local producers such as Sleepy G Farm, Root Cellar Gardens and Belluz Farms, and sells them at close to cost.
“What we found difficult at first was keeping the prices consistent,” McGibbon says. “I wanted people to come and know bananas were going to be this price, apples were going to be this price, even though I knew there would be fluctuation in the market. We are lucky right now because we have a grant that covers that fluctuation.”
In the fall, the Community Food Market sold many vegetables from Roots to Harvest’s own urban garden sites on Lillie Street and at the Volunteer Pool. Beans, cucumbers, kale and leafy greens were plentiful. “We also try to sell what people are asking for; one mom said, ‘My daughter really really likes plums,” so we got plums,” McGibbon says.
Many of the items are priced individually, so that shoppers can buy a variety of things, rather than a big bag of one thing.
McGibbon also found that in the fall, when the market table was outdoors, kids playing outside would be interested and come up with a pocketful of change. “They would ask, ‘What can we buy with this,’ and they could buy a couple of bananas, or an orange, and that would be their after-school snack,” she says.
“Financial literacy was an interesting aspect that we hadn’t thought about,” she adds. “[Kids are] learning to count, learning how money works.”
In addition to selling fresh fruits and vegetables, Roots to Harvest also partners with NorWest Community Health Centres to run a “green prescription” program.
Clients of the NorWest Community Health Centres who have (or are at risk of having) a diet-related health concern, such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension, can be referred by a dietician for a Market Greens Rx, which comes in the form of vouchers that allow patients to buy fresh healthy food. A prescription runs for 15 weeks, and a single person can get $10 a week, or a family can get up to $25 a week.
“The goal of this project is to create a safe space where people would come and learn and share,” says McGibbon. The pandemic has put many projects, such as cooking programs, on hold, but she still hopes that more in-person programming will be possible in the future.