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Healthy progress as PEC Good Food Market celebrates third year

Good Food Market volunteer Kathy, with her support person, Mandy.

Once a week, on Wednesday afternoons, Prince Edward Learning Centre transforms its adult learning space into a vibrant market stand brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices.

The PEC Fresh Good Food Market is part of a network of community markets set up across the country to help increase access to healthy produce with support from Community Food Centres Canada. CFC Canada also funds Greens Rx, a nation-wide research program, which examines how increasing access to fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables affects the well-being of people who are experiencing food insecurity and are managing health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Greens Rx offered participants a 20-week subsidy, in the form of grocery cards to use at the PEC Fresh Good Food Market, in exchange for sharing their experiences. Surveys checked in with participants at three points: before starting the program, upon completion, and three months after it ended.

Independent consultants compiled findings, which touched on physical health; shopping and cooking behaviours; fruit and vegetable consumption; mental health and wellness; food security; market usage and healthy food knowledge.

All participants reported the program helped them make ends meet and had a lasting impact on the way they shopped: buying more fruits and vegetables, choosing better-quality produce and trying a wider variety of foods.

“The health impacts are encouraging,” said Robyn Cakebread, Market Coordinator at PELC. “Over the course of the program, 56 per cent of participants noticed an improvement in their health; of these, 84 per cent reported improvement after three months.

Promisingly, the affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables was strongly linked to improved outcomes for chronic conditions, with 96 per cent of participants reporting they were able to better manage their long-term health conditions.

“Unfortunately there is still a stigma around food access,” added Cakebread. “Being able to manage illness with food should be a basic right. The Greens Rx program supports people to find some agency in their own well-being, and we are very lucky to be a part of that.”

On average, the price of a basket of goods at PEC Fresh Good Food Market comes in at 33 per cent less than stores.

The results of the research are to guide strategies that advocate for making smaller-scale investments that can improve access to nutritious foods in communities across Canada. The full report is available through Prince Edward Learning Centre.

While the market celebrates three years at its Picton location, it has expanded to a second location at the County Food Hub, at Sophiasburgh Central School, every other Saturday morning.

Over the past year, net sales from the two market locations topped $100,000. Through PELC financial empowerment programs, the Learning Centre distributed $22,000 worth of market gift cards to local agencies serving community members with low incomes or affected by food insecurity.

A tasty, healthy treat will be shared, courtesy of Farmhouse Eats at Hagerman Farms, during a special third anniversary market on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome. The first 100 in-person customers are to receive a free, reusable tote.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, PELC will host an Education Fair from 1 – 3 p.m. There will be a collection of resources in one place for adults thinking about heading to college, finishing high school or starting an apprenticeship.

There will be representatives from Loyola Continuing Ed, Quinte Adult Ed and Loyalist College, as well as community programs that can answer questions about financial, transportation and social support, including Ontario Works, Employment Ontario, ODSP, Quinte Transit, Career Edge, and Community Living Prince Edward.

Prince Edward Learning Centre supports people reaching learning goals by providing programs that increase literacy and essential skills and offer educational and employment upgrading and training.

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