Projects bring local food downtown

By: Rob Altemeyer, MLA for Wolseley

As published in The Metro

August 28, 2014

Rob Altemeyer, MLA for Wolseley, shows off one of the largest heads of lettuce he’s ever seen at the West Broadway Farmers’ Market, along with Good Food Club co-ordinators Damien Gagne and Ailene Deller.

Fewer grocery store options in downtown Winnipeg hasn’t deterred local residents from finding creative and successful solutions for local food on their own.

Take the Good Food Club in West Broadway as an example. Founded with financial support from the provincial government and other agencies, the Good Food Club was launched by the West Broadway Community Organization (WBCO) as a way to reach vulnerable people and improve their access to healthy, locally-grown food.

Every week during the summer, staff from WBCO and local residents pile into a van and head out to the Buys family farm, where they help plant, water, weed and harvest the garden. They then receive a share of the fruit and vegetables produced on the farm.

In winter, Good Food Club members meet in a downtown community kitchen to learn about cooking healthy food, and take meals home to share with their families. There’s even a children’s cooking class to help them get an early start on a healthy lifestyle.

Residents in the West Broadway, Wolseley, Spence and St. Matthews/Daniel McIntyre neighbourhoods can also get local food through multiple farmers markets. Garden plots are even available for free to those who want to grow their own food, right here in the heart of the city.

When families and institutions choose to support local food, we are supporting our rural communities too.

Several years ago, the U of W began a remarkable partnership when it switched its food service contract from an out-of-province multinational to Diversity Food Services, a local social enterprise. Two-thirds of the food Diversity uses during the Manitoba growing season is from Manitoba, and half of that is organically-grown. As a result, Diversity is a reliable customer for the food produced by 40 Manitoba family farms.

The enormous potential of the Diversity/U of W partnership caught the eye of our provincial government. Just this past spring, we launched a new working group to further promote the success of Manitoba’s small scale food industry and direct farm marketing. A local food advocacy group, Food Matters Manitoba, has also been tasked with helping more Manitoba institutions use local food.

If you would like to find out more about local food options in our area, feel free to send me an email at Rob.Altemeyer@yourmanitoba.ca

With so much local success and expertise to draw upon, our opportunities to support healthy local food, the people who produce it, and the planet we live on are sure to grow in the days ahead.