Monthly fresh produce program open to everyone

It’s 8:30 on a Thursday morning in March. The sun is shining and the parking lot of Haliburton’s A.J. LaRue Arena is filled with cars. There’s no hockey practice or figure skating going on; Haliburton Rotary Club members are filling bags for the Good Food Box program.

In the foyer a makeshift assembly line is set up running the length of the room. Potatoes at one end carrots at the other and in between cabbage apples onions.

Diane Smith is shaking out the white plastic bags getting them ready for the pile of produce that’s about to be packed and shipped to more than 200 people in the county. A handful of volunteers grab the bags and move deftly down the line bagging the produce with the skill of a seasoned checkout clerk. On the other side of the table Shelley van Nood jokes that she can skip her workout and just toss bags of potatoes all day instead.

The bags quickly pile up along the side of the room awaiting pickups in town and to be taken away to all corners of the county from Cardiff to Dorset.

The Good Food Box started as a program to provide affordable fresh food in Haliburton County. The idea came up at a social gathering between Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit dietitian Rosie Kadwell and YWCA staff member Paula Pepping.

“The first packing and delivery day was in November 2001 in the foyer of the old YWCA in Halco Plaza” Kadwell wrote in an email to the paper “34 boxes were packed and delivered throughout the county.”

In the last 17 years the Good Food Box has been adopted by several community groups including the Lions Club health unit YWCA and now the Rotary Club of Haliburton.

“The point of the Good Food Box is to ensure that every family has available to them some means of getting good nutritious food that can lead to a healthy lifestyle” says Brian Nash who co-ordinates the program for Rotary.

Kadwell says she’s proud to see the program continue in the community with a team of volunteers willing to make it happen.

“Haliburton County [Good Food Box] is an excellent example of a true grassroots community project as the lead co-ordinators change over time there are many volunteers who continue to provide their time each month to be the community leads and take the orders pack and deliver boxes” she says.

As a dietitian she points out that increasing the availability of fresh produce has many potential positive effects.

“Research tells us that eating seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day is good for our health – helps reduce heart disease diabetes strokes cancer and obesity” she says.

“Over half of our health care dollars in Ontario are spent on treating diet-related diseases – [the Good Food Box] program could potentially save provincial health care dollars.”

The Good Food Box (which actually comes in a bag) includes between eight and 12 items each month for a flat fee of $15. Anyone can buy a box and there are no limits on how many orders an individual can make.

To receive a Good Food Box an individual must put in an order before the second Wednesday of the month. The box is available for pickup on the third Thursday of the month.

Although the food is packed in Haliburton volunteers drive it to other community locations.

“It’s genuinely about food security and being able to offer families in Haliburton County a nutritious food box every month. It’s available to everybody” says Nash.

Part of what makes the initiative feasible is the assistance of Haliburton Foodland and its owner Brad Park.

“Our most important partner by far and away is of course Foodland who provides us with the food for each food box every month” Nash said. “Without Brad Park’s help … it would be a different story that’s for sure.”

He estimated that the value of the Good Food Box is about twice the amount they sell it at.

To find more information on the program you can go to the Good Food Box – Haliburton County Facebook page or call Nash at 705-455-9355.