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Fresh food market enters third year of helping residents overcome food insecurity

The ongoing battle to overcome food insecurity in Prince Edward County continues as a pilot fresh food market project enters its third year.

Despite the abundance of fresh local produce in the County, the rising cost of living leaves some people without access to quality fruits and vegetables. Up to one in five PEC residents face food insecurity, according to the 2022 Vital Signs report recently released by the County Foundation.

The PEC Fresh Good Food Market grew from an idea that started in the classroom at the Prince Edward Learning Centre, notes Executive Director Kathy Kennedy.

Students researched food issues in PEC, visited farms and other markets, and decided to start a market here, based on their own needs and experiences.

As a result, the PEC Fresh Good Food Market opened in October 2020 as one of 15 pilot “Market Greens” programs across Canada, funded through Community Food Centres Canada. As word-of-mouth spread, the market has grown year-over-year.

Program co-ordinator Robyn Cakebread notes about 100 unique customers are served each month by more than 15 volunteers at two locations and offering free deliveries in the Picton area.

Held once a week at the PELC office in the Rexall Plaza, the Picton market brings in about $1,500 worth of produce every Wednesday, and sells it at wholesale prices, online from noon to 3 p.m., and in person from 4 to 6 p.m. The market has expanded to a second location in Sophiasburgh, every second Saturday at the County Food Hub.

The program also offers food prescriptions, called “Greens Rx,” for people who struggle to afford fresh produce and have dietary illnesses often linked to lack of access to healthy foods.

“Our goal is to help our community improve their health through increased access to affordable, good quality fruits and vegetables,” Cakebread said.

While the initiative is underpinned by principles of food security and health-supportive diets, she adds, everyone is welcome to shop at the market.

“The salad greens are particularly fabulous,” says market customer Molly Mulloy. “It’s a great service for people with limited means to help them eat better. I have found the volunteers really friendly and helpful whenever I’ve been able to go with my friend. The delivery service is fabulous for seniors who can’t get out.”

Kennedy notes several partnerships support the program.

“Support for two years from Community Food Centres Canada, and from our community partners, means we can build a sustainable model to serve the needs of our community,” Kennedy adds, acknowledging generous funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security and the Arrell Family Foundation.

“We received funding, some from the municipality, that allowed us to distribute gift cards to local organizations that see community members experiencing food insecurity, like our food banks, Community Care for Seniors and Alternatives for Women. Organizations can also use funding earmarked for food security to purchase PEC Fresh gift cards. Each card has $20 on it, which actually gets you loads of fruits and vegetables.”

Since 1998, Prince Edward Learning Centre has worked to provide a safe, creative, person-centred environment for lifelong learning. It supports individuals pursuing personal learning goals through programming that increases literacy, contributes to educational upgrading, supports community involvement, and assists with access to employment training.

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  1. ADJ says:

    Yes food insecurity is a ongoing battle and there is no end or perfect answer in sight.
    However,, I see no mention of these recipients being taught how to preserve, canning, storage, freezing for when the local fresh product is not available. This should be taught now as the final crops are being harvested. Buy up those 88 cent cans of diced tomatoes at No Frills and Giant Tiger,,anything to stretch meals.

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